Running Safely in the Great Outdoors

January 22, 2012

This is a guest post by Chloe Hibbert.

As we enter the New Year people everywhere are dusting off their trainers and starting to pound the pavements to lose that excess holiday weight. A person weighing 60kg burns an average of 300 calories per half hour of ten minute mile running, and the best part is that anyone can do it.

But whilst running is great for your waistline, without taking proper precautions it can also lead to acute and chronic conditions. Here are some important steps to take when hitting the trail to avoid common running related problems.

Choose the right running shoe

Every runner begins with a first step, but that first step could lead to disaster if you aren’t wearing the right shoes. Before taking the plunge, go to a specialist running shop to have your running style reviewed.

A biomechanics expert or experienced shoe retailer will carry out a gait analysis to measure the natural inward roll of your feet. By knowing your ‘pronation’, you can pick a shoe that will protect you from foot and leg discomfort.

It is also important that you change your running shoes every 500 miles or every year, depending on which comes first. If you run frequently it’s a good idea to have more than one pair of shoes.

Stretch

Whether you are going on a short sprint or a long distance plod it is essential that you give yourself time to stretch before and after your run. Stretching is one of the most important things you can do after a warm-up to protect your body from injury, as well as easing muscle soreness.

Always make sure you stretch your muscles slowly, holding each stretch for 15 to 30 seconds. A common mistake is to bounce during a stretch, but this actually risks tearing the muscle. Stop the stretch when you begin to feel tightness in the muscle.

Hydrate well

When doing any type of exercise it is important to keep well hydrated. Running when dehydrated will affect your performance, slow your ability to recover for the next workout and can lead to heat stroke.

Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after a run and adjust your fluid intake depending on the weather conditions. Choose your tipple carefully- water and sports drinks are the best for rehydrating, but caffeinated and alcoholic drinks can actually leave you less hydrated than you were before.

Build your mileage gradually

If you increase your mileage too quickly your body will not be able to adapt to the additional stress on the joints. You should increase only one aspect of your running program per week, choosing between intensity, frequency and duration. Increasing one of these between 5 and 10 per cent per week will prevent unnecessary injury.

It is also important to have one or two days off from running each week, whether that means doing a different type of exercise or taking a break entirely to avoid fatigue.

Include other fitness regimes

Mix it up! Including other types of non-impact cardiovascular activity will help you avoid injury and build your endurance. Go cycling, take a swim or use a cross trainer to keep your workouts interesting.

Make sure you also vary your running routine. Excessive hill running can put unnecessary demands on the calf muscles and cause painful shin splints. And whilst downhill running may be easier on the lungs, it can actually put as much stress on your body as running uphill, particularly on the quadriceps muscle.

Seek treatment for injuries

Over half of recreational runners develop an injury at least once a year, almost always of the lower limbs. Common injuries include Plantar Fasciitis, Achilles Tendinitis, IT Band Syndrome, Runner’s Knee and Shin Splints.

Most runners will need to see a physiotherapist at some stage in their life for unresolved injuries. Physiotherapy can be expensive, but with private medical insurance you will be covered for the cost of consultations and treatment.

Armed with these tips anyone can become a runner, so take that first step outside and start reaping the rewards of a healthy lifestyle.

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