So, you’ve been out of the game for a little while. Maybe you’ve never been there, only on the sidelines in the past. but now, you’re feeling a little more confident, a little more energy and you’d like to take up running. That’s great! You’re just a little concerned about where to begin and how to avoid hurting yourself like your buddy, Tim. He’s shelved now for three more weeks after that tweaked knee… Don’t be like Tim. Take note on these 5 tips to help a smooth transition (back) into running. Specifically, this article is geared towards last minute decisions to enter into a 5, 10 or half marathon, ’cause we’ve all been there…
Technique, technique technique!
At the end of the day, running is just a more intensive, sped up version of the primal movement known as a lunge. So, if you can’t do a proper lunge (gold standard for my athletes is starting in a split stance, pick your back knee off the floor to standing 10 times each leg without falling over…) you have zero business compounding that over the course of 5, 10 or 21 kilometres. Sure there’s going to be body mechanics that are unavoidable based on the way each individual moves, but the basics are the same. We are looking for proper engagement through the glutes, hamstrings and quads and we have to train the muscles to activate. It doesn’t just happen. Unless you’re Usian Bolt or Andre De Grasse. Even then, go watch their training regimen.
A few activation drills I like to work into my regimen for proper engagement of the muscles of the legs consist of: Stationary lunges, “Clamshells” and Peterson Step-Ups. I’ve compiled a quick little demo on my YouTube for anyone that wants to strengthen up their form. Please check out my YouTube library for proper technique when performing these drills on your own!
According to running coach, Jason Fitzgerald – You should think about running with a tall back, landing mid foot, just in front of your centre of mass, with a quick cadence or leg speed… Think kind of like landing softly like a ninja with each step.
Start slow, focus on progress – not perfection
In the grand scheme, you should have probably been preparing for this upcoming 10k months ago. Now you’re ten days out and you haven’t run more than 5k in the past 2 weeks. Just like cramming for that economics exam won’t help you remember the principles of the free market, piling on a bunch of kilometres in a week in hopes to prepare for that run will do nothing but risk injury on the undertrained body. My suggestion, if you’re ten days out, pick 2 days 3 days apart to run an 8k and a 6k. (ie. Race is on Sunday.. so the prior Monday run 8k, and then run 6k on the Thursday…) and focus on keeping a steady pace that you can maintain for those distances. That way, when Sunday rolls around, you won’t be drained and sore for those extra two kilometres.
Trade the road for the trail
Running is an impactful movement. The more times you land hard on an unforgiving surface the harder it will be on your joints. This can cause injury and at the very least it’ll make your feet, ankles, knees, hips or back hurt. To avoid this, or at least lessen it – try running on the dirt/grass beside the road or better yet, pick some trails to run. The ground is a little softer so you won’t force as much impact into the joints and therefore won’t be as likely to do damage to those areas.
Fuel your body!
In the world of Exercise and Sport Nutrition, the proper fuel can make or break your performance. Think of your body as a car. The oil is water, the food is the gasoline and the fluids are the vitamins, minerals and extra supplements to ensure all systems go. Focus on raw, whole foods, home cooked when available. Some of my favourite easy to eat foods/snacks that are a great source of fuel are bananas, nut butter and celery or apples and water with lemon. Check out a video I did for an easy to cook and super delicious Pineapple-Ginger Rice Bowl here or read the recipe for a great greens juice here!
Sounds counter intuitive, but your performance in sport is greatly related to how well your body is recovered. I come back to the point that overtraining, especially on short notice will do nothing but risk injury. Proper warmup, and cool down prior to training as well as ample sleep and recovery days are crucial for a successful performance. I have an excellent 6 step movement prep warmup I incorporate before each training run I go on that helps me not only avoid death or death-like symptoms, but properly activates the corresponding muscle groups I’m going to be using in training. Check it out here.