Running is one of the most readily available sports due to its relative accessibility and its ability to be fit into a busy schedule. Although running can be accessed by all, it does not mean that all bodies are ready to engage in running at a successful or even an adequate level.
When considering starting a running program there are a few key considerations prior to lacing up your shoes for the first time. Finding a pair of properly fitting running shoes that is right for your specific needs is a key ingredient to getting off on the right foot. Start slowly; trying to run too far, too quickly without the prerequisite strength and range of motion will set your body up for premature injury. It is recommended to not increase running mileage by more than 10% per week to allow for bodily adaptations to occur.
This is incredibly important but often difficult for some to adhere to as the weather improves. Running alone will not make your body stronger. It is imperative that any runner completes resistance training that is like the intensity level of their running, i.e., faster running will require increase dynamic strength and control. Simply adding miles to your weekly workouts will help to increase your overall speed but there is a cap on the amount of performance that can be elevated with this approach. Changing the speed and distances you run throughout the week and completing proper resistance and/or plyometric training will provide for increased performance as well as injury prevention at a much greater level.
Proper foot strike pattern is one of the most popular topics of discussion in the research literature as well as many magazines and online forums. Even though there are many prevailing ideas and assumptions regarding this, the data in this area is clear. You can land on whatever part of your foot you prefer if you do not stride too far out in front of your body, i.e., heel strike, midfoot, or forefoot. Overstriding will lead to significantly increased stresses placed through your body and therefore an increased injury risk. If you find that you are having aches and pains caused by overstriding try shortening how far you stride out by increasing the number of steps you take over the course of a minute (cadence). Landing with your foot closer to your center of mass will decrease the stresses on your body and will reduce your risk for injury.
So, as you head out the streets or trails try to keep a few things in mind. Do not go too fast, try to land with your foot as close to underneath your body as possible and change your pace as well as distances as you begin to increase your mileage. As one becomes more comfortable with running, the first thing that often goes is strength training. Do not underestimate the value of resistance training to the success of your running, performance, and injury prevention.
Jedd Lehman, PT, DPT