Tips for Getting Back Into Running

With the weather becoming warmer, many will be out hitting the trails again, which can present problems for people who haven’t run in a while. Around this time last year, I wrote specifically about a common condition called plantar fasciitis.

This year, I would like to give some general recommendations with starting or returning to a running program and some points to consider. In the PT world, we regularly see injuries with running and some adjustments/changes to your routine may help save those visits.

Footwear is important, but may not be the only thing to consider for success or potential injury.

Research hasn’t been overly helpful in determining who needs what shoes. Find a pair that is comfortable for you and that allows you to run without injury. There may need to be some trial and error with this, and there are some stores in the area that give you a trial period with your shoes so that you can return them if they aren’t working for you. (Check out this video if you need help picking out a running shoe.)

Running too long or too often, or trying to progress too quickly can cause an injury or make it worse.

Runners are unique in their passion for their sport, which can make it challenging for healthcare providers to encourage them to slow down or stop their routine if needed.

Here’s a good tip: Follow the 10% rule. During training, advance your distance by no more than 10% weekly and you may reduce injury risk. More importantly, an increase by greater than 30% has shown to increase your risk of injury.

For people who have not run in a long time or are recovering from injury, I usually have them start with intervals: Run for 1 minute, walk for 1 minute for a total of 10-30 minutes. As the running gets easier, progress to a 2 minute run/1 minute walk, 3 minute run/1 minute walk, etc.

Mix up your routine.

If you feel exhausted, don’t run as hard on that day, and if you had a long run or hard run, follow it up with a lighter routine the next day you go out.

Use technology.

There are numerous apps and routines to help you in your training (e.g. Couch to 5k programs, Map My Run, etc.)

Add strength training.

Try adding a strengthening routine 2-3 days per week to not only build muscles, but to give you an active rest from your running. Try this full-body workout at the playground or check out these strengthening moves from ProMedica Wildwood Athletic club trainers.

Every runner is different.

Recommendations are not universal. You may hear to change your footwear because you pronate or supinate, or change your stride length or step rate, or change to a toe strike or mid foot strike. While these may help, it may not apply to you if you are battling an injury, so you should see a professional to evaluate your biomechanics and develop a plan.

Perfect your running form.

While every runner is different, here are some general recommendations:

  • Avoid bouncing; your center of mass should remain level. You shouldn’t feel like your head is bouncing up and down or that you’re jumping as you push off to the swing phase of running.
  • Keep your hips level.
  • Knees should be in line with the hips/ankles. Especially in female runners, we see a “knock knee” running form that can put abnormal stress through the joints.
  • Avoid a hard foot strike; you shouldn’t be pounding your feet on the ground each time you land. In the words of Mohamed Ali, “Float like a butterfly.”
  • Check out this infographic for a visual of good running form.
  • Have fun! You’ve made the decision to improve your health, enjoy the weather and nature and find a friend to run with to help keep you motivated.

As always, speak with a health care provider before beginning an exercise program. I encourage you to ask questions, share your experience, and leave suggestions for future topics in the comments below. I will do my best to respond to each as timely as possible!

Bryon Renwand, PT, DPT, CSCS, has been working with ProMedica Total Rehab since 2012, and is currently seeing patients at Total Rehab of Bedford, Mich. 

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