Running Tips for Everyone

Studies have shown that runners have the same rate of knee osteoarthritis in later years as sedentary individuals. So why miss out on the many mental and physical health benefits of running?

Curl up your fist and punch the asphalt. Now punch the cement. Did one feel softer than the other? Studies have shown that the only surface that reduces ground reaction force is grass, so don’t fret over whether the rest of your mileage is on asphalt or cement. Rather, pay attention to if you are always running on a slant or on sidewalks that constantly dip up and down on one side. Try to keep things even so you aren’t always causing more stress to only one side of your body.

While this is a good rule of thumb, we have to understand it! Increasing 10% EVERY week to hit higher and higher mileage goals will lead to overuse injury. Reaching new weekly mileage for the first time requires a few weeks of adjustment before bumping up the mileage again. Consider taking a down week every 3rd or 4th week before ramping up the mileage again to allow your body some extra recovery. On the other hand, if you are accustomed to running 50 miles per week (mpw) and are resuming training at 30 mpw after a 2 week break, you can ramp back up to 50 mpw at a much faster rate than the 10% rule. (ex. 30 mpw, 40 mpw, 50 mpw the third week back)

If you watch an Olympic final in the 5,000m, you will see a variety of short, medium and tall runners with varying leg lengths. So the excuse of “I can’t run fast because I have short legs” holds no water. More important than stride length is stride rate! Shorter, faster steps are actually more efficient and injury resistant once you get used to it. Check out our “Running Form” page for more specifics on this phenomenon.

The running shoe industry fell into the trap of caring more about marketing than about science and research from the 80’s through the early 2000’s. Shoe companies would add “technology” to their shoes to reduce impact, correct foot motion and lift the heel. These expensive, yet marketable technologies led to our society spending more and more money to get more and more shoe, but not helping to reduce injury rates one bit. Research has shown that the more comfortable the shoe feels running, the less likely you will be injured training in it. Don’t feel pressured into buying the $150 shoes if the $100 shoes feel better! Often times, less is more.

Sprint and form drills can greatly improve a runner’s efficiency, strength and body awareness. They are easily incorporated into a warm-up routine or at the end of a run. Additionally, fast repetitions of 100m-400m can greatly improve running economy at your slower training and racing speeds. This faster running can be a small part of your training plan, but it will yield improved running form and results.

The principle of specificity suggests that we should practice in conditions as similar to competition as we can. This part of training is essential! For example, marathon runners should do several workouts at their marathon pace before race day. Milers should practice their goal mile pace. But what about all the other base and recovery miles we run that reap so many other benefits? Those easier miles should include frequent visits to the trails. The uneven terrain and frequent hills promote development of many stabilizing and undertrained muscles. Remember to focus on an even effort when trail running rather than hitting any given pace.

Unfortunately, many runners try to become as slim as possible to improve self-image and times by restricting calories. When a runner doesn’t fuel properly, he exposes himself to impaired healing and higher injury risk. Some of the best endurance athletes in the world are very muscular and strong. Some athletes will actually gain some weight in the form of healthy muscle tissue while following a running program! While every runner has different genes to determine body size in general, it is each runner’s responsibility to eat healthy and sufficiently, and to keep muscle groups strong and stable. This is the only way each of us can reach our full running potential.

While a lack of hand-eye coordination may have led some of us into the sport of running, we should not fail to recognize the amount of coordination and skill involved in running well. Runners who succeed in meeting their running potential and staying injury free are they who have mastered the control of their core and lower extremities. These runners have great hip, knee, ankle and foot control. They have clean running form that promotes efficiency and reduces impact. These characteristics can be developed through skilled therapeutic exercises and running form training directed by your skilled physical therapist.

With regular, consistent training, the majority of runs should be at an enjoyable, conversational pace. That means that you shouldn’t be running so hard that you are out of breath on every run. Try going on runs with a friend of similar ability and holding conversations throughout the whole run. Sure, you’ll have to take some breaths in the middle of sentences… but it should be an enjoyable, fun experience! Runners who push themselves to gasping everyday don’t get enough recovery and usually end up injured. The hardest part about these easy runs should be getting started.