We don’t want to jinx it, especially after those sporadic snow flurries we got last month, but…Spring is here! We know a lot of our clients are happy to rediscover some of their favourite warm-weather activities; the most popular of which right now seems to be running. As the days start to get longer and warmer, getting outside and getting active is something we will always encourage here at LiveWell Health & Physiotherapy. However, before you bust out your running shoes for the season, make sure your body is prepped and ready to go. It’s always important to know how to avoid injury and keep your body healthy so that you don’t have to worry about any kind of recovery time. Here are our team’s top 7 tips for preparing your body for the running season this spring.
Tip #1: Create Your Routine
When it comes to running, consistency often leads to success. That being said, this does not mean running every day or doing the same exercises over and over again. Create a routine that will benefit your runner’s body and mind to avoid overexertion and deviation from the plan. Planning your run schedule in advance will help you monitor your progress and stay consistent. Identify what your goals are and work backwards so that your weekly routines help you achieve these goals in a safe and realistic manner. This will also help you know when you should up the intensity in terms of length and speed to see progress. Starting early will give you plenty of time to start small and take the first step.
Tip #2: Build Aerobic Capacity
Your aerobic capacity is a measure of how well your lungs and heart can get oxygen to your muscles. Increasing your aerobic capacity means improving your exercise tolerance because your body does not have to work as hard to supply oxygen. Brisk walking is a great way to start building up your aerobic capacity without overexerting yourself. Start at a moderate pace and short distances and slowly increase your speed and length as you can tolerate more. This is a kind of endurance training that will help prepare your lungs and heart to tolerate more exercise and intensity safely. The key here is to increase your speed and length gradually and patiently.
Tip #3: Don’t Skip Strength Training
We know it may not seem super important as a runner, but regular strength training is crucial for progress and avoiding pain. For runners, regular strength training not only complements the aerobic and cardiovascular exercise you are doing, but it also helps keep your body functioning and aligned the way it is supposed to – both while running and in between runs. Do not ignore your lower body and core strength training or you risk unalignment and injury that will set you back in your schedule. You should always be supplementing any upper body work with lower body work so that you can run faster, more efficiently, and with less pain.
Tip #4: Focus on Flexibility and Mobility
You need the right amount of flexibility to move like an athlete while running. Flexibility exercises are a great way to maintain the health of your muscles, tendons, and joints. Try incorporating some dynamic stretches into your routine to prepare your body for movement. These are especially important if you are sitting for long periods of time throughout the day and need to get your body used to movement. There are plenty of videos and tutorials with great dynamic stretches out there so find one that works best for you and your body. We love routines that include lunges with rotations and active leg stretches to wake up the muscles in your lower body before hitting the track.
Tip #5: Warm Up Effectively
Speaking of stretches, we always recommend an effective warm-up before any kind of physical activity. Again, dynamic stretches are your best friend. They are great for warming up your muscles, keeping your heart rate up, and activating the important muscle groups you use while running. Having an efficient warm-up routine will help you avoid some of the most common running injuries that you are susceptible to – think rolled or sprained ankles, runner’s knee, Achilles Tendonitis, Plantar Fasciitis, and shin splints.
Tip #6: Eat Better
It is always a good time to focus on healthier eating habits. Preparing for this running season just might be the kick you need to actually follow through with your goals. Whether you want to cut back on your alcohol consumption, reduce your processed sugars, or increase your intake of fresh whole foods, there are plenty of healthy eating resources out there to help you along the way. As a team of health care professionals, we always encourage better eating habits as long as they are carried out in a healthy and safe way. This season has an abundance of fresh healthy options out there including rhubarb, strawberries, asparagus, carrots, cucumbers, and spinach. Don’t forget to stay hydrated before, during, and after your runs as well!
Tip #7: Wear Proper Footwear
It is so important to prepare your feet for the weight they are going to take on all of your runs. We always recommend wearing footwear that fits properly, is supportive, will absorb any force, and protect your ankle from moving around too much. All of this will ensure you have a stable base to run on that will help reduce the number of trips and falls you take throughout this running season. Wearing the correct footwear is also crucial for optimizing the load transfer to your hips and back to avoid pain and injuries. We offer custom orthotic services at our Baden, Kitchener (Lancaster), and Waterloo locations if you need further support while running.
We hope that this blog helps you feel more ready and confident lacing up your running shoes this spring! Remember that it is always so important to prepare your body for any kind of activity, perhaps even more so if you have had a less active winter. If you do start to feel any unusual aches, pains, strains, or discomfort during this year’s running season please do not ignore it or you risk worsening your symptoms and causing a serious injury. Connect with our team for more support if you experience any kind of running injury.
Give any of our four clinics a call or fill out our contact forms with any questions and to learn how physiotherapy can enhance your overall quality of life. We’re also always happy to help answer any general physiotherapy and wellness questions, provide you with health tips, and schedule a consultation. Just ask!