The summer is the perfect time of year to get into running. Maybe you’ve tried it before and couldn’t acclimate your body to running, or you want to start and don’t know how to condition your body for it. Or you might be thinking you don’t need to worry about preparing your body to run, but that would also be a mistake. If your body isn’t ready to run, you can actually cause yourself some serious damage and miss out on the benefits of running.
Before you go out to purchase a shiny new pair of running shoes, you need to ensure your body is at the right level of fitness to support this new activity. Running puts pressure on your entire body including the muscles, tendons, and joints in your legs, knees, ankle, feet and even toes.
Keep in mind if you have an improper running technique you can put a lot of strain on your joints and tendons. Being overweight can put more strain on your body as well when you run, but don’t let this discourage you from starting.
We recommend you start with low impact activities and work your way up to running. Some physical activities that can help prep your body for running include walking, hiking, biking, swimming and using an elliptical. You should also begin to do some strength training particularly focusing on your leg, glute and core muscles. The Body-Solid Powerline Functional Trainer is a great piece of equipment to use to accomplish this.
This is also a good time to modify your diet and make sure you’re eating foods that will support your goals. What this means is reducing your calorie consumption and increasing the nutrient-rich foods you are consuming. Here’s a great article on some of the best foods for runners.
Now that you’ve adjusted your diet and begun conditioning your body to begin running, now is the time to start moving! Before you hit the road though, you need to warm up!
It’s common to believe that a warm-up should look like doing some stretches for a few minutes and then off you go into your run. While stretching is important, this is not the correct way to warm-up and can leave you at risk for injury during your run. In fact, stretching before a run can actually increase your risk of injury, which is why you should instead do a dynamic warm-up.
Here’s a great warm-up routine you can do before your run:
Remember! If you don’t have time to warm up, you don’t have any business running that day!
It’s important to understand how to run correctly so you don’t suffer an overuse injury or any other type of injuries like stress fractures, plantar fasciitis, and torn ligaments. Running is a repetitive motion that is done thousands of times each run, which means you need to do it right. We can’t stress the importance of proper running form enough.
Let’s look at the main components of proper running form:
When running, you should maintain a straight line from your ankle, through your butt, all the way up to your head leaning forward ever so slightly from your ankles. If you’re standing still, it should almost feel as though you were about to fall forward. Maintaining a proper lean will keep your body in alignment and help load your muscles properly.
Your stride rate is the number of steps you take per minute, which should be approximately 170-190 steps per minute at a mild pace. Of course, as you run faster your pace will increase.
One way to ensure you’re maintaining a good stride is to find songs that have the same number of beats per minutes. You can even find playlists on Spotify labeled “170-190 BPM” to help you. If you’re trying to figure out what 170-190 BPM sounds like Take On Me by A-ha! Or or All My Life by the Foo Fighters.
Studies have found that increasing your stride causes less impact shock on your legs, improves your running efficiency (which means you’ll run faster with less effort) and reduces your chances of sustaining an injury.
Your foot should come down and connect to the ground under your body, not in front of it. This is a common mistake among beginning runners and it’s problematic because it can put too much stress on your body.
You also want to make sure you land on your midfoot since this will help absorb shock impact and prevent you from heel-striking which is the cause of many injuries. What you want to do is land on your foot flat instead on with your toes angled upwards.
The ideal arm swing involves your arms being bent at a 90-degree angle and moving front to back.
Another good way to practice this is by imaging a line goes down the center of your body – when you run, your arms should never cross this line. You’re not powerwalking or twisting your torso here, you want graceful, fluid moves.
Your hands should be cupped loosely, keep your fists relaxed and don’t clench them. You can also use your arms for momentum by pumping your elbows.
In addition to the above, you also want to ensure you maintain good posture. Don’t slouch, instead keep a tall back, with your chest out. Make sure you are looking 50-100 feet ahead of you, don’t look down or too high up.
So now you’re warmed up, your playlist is cued up and ready, and you have practiced good running form – its time to start running!
If it’s your first run, or if it’s been a while since you have last run it’s a good idea to mix up your first few days or weeks with a combination of running and walking. Start by walking for about 5 minutes or so and then running for 2-3 minutes. If you’re listening to music you can go by song – for example, start by walking 2 songs and running for one. Continue this for the entirety of your workout. As you get stronger and feel more comfortable running try walking for one song and running for 2. Before you know it, you’ll be running for your entire playlist!
If running for an entire song is too much for you in the beginning, you can also try running for the chorus of a song and walking during the verses. Keep extending your running time until you’ve worked up to an entire song.
Remember, don’t push your body to the point of injury. It’s a good idea to push yourself a little harder each time you go running, but listen to your body’s cues and respect your limits. You’ll be amazed by how quickly your body will begin to adjust to running if you take the time you need to get there.
We wouldn’t be doing you any favors if we didn’t discuss the components of a good running shoe. After all, wearing the wrong shoes can be just as bad for you, as running with the improper form!
When searching for a running shoe you should look for a shoe that has:
That’s it! Armed with this information and the right shoes, you’ll be a runner in no time at all!