So You Want to be a Runner? Part 1

The air is fresh, September signals a reset and with the holiday season fast approaching, you have decided to take up running.

 

I get it. It is hard to ignore the throngs of runners that hit the streets in the fall. At almost every turn there is a weekend fun run or race.

 

I’ve been running for years. It used to be about maintaining a healthy weight but over the years it has become the place where I check in with myself, the time where I ponder heavy decisions and hatch great ideas and the self care space that lets me leave it all on the road.

 

There is no prerequisite fitness level, minimal equipment and no set schedules. You can take it as far as you want, push as hard as you need or coast in the solitude your heart and mind crave. 

 

However, before you lace up and hit the streets there are a few things you should consider. Runners are prone to overuse injuries and are one of the highest injury populations we see in the clinic.

 

To keep you safe while you get race ready or just burn off some steam on the road, we are launching our learn to run series. In today’s blog we discuss a few things to consider before you even leave the house; the shoes on your feet and where you are going to run.

 

Shoes

 

In a sport where there is really only one piece of equipment, it is important that you find the right fit.

 

I want to be very clear that shoe quality and fit is not improved by cost. Furthermore, what works for your sister, best friend, colleague or mother likely won’t work for you.

 

The architecture of your foot is unique which means the fit of your shoe needs to be specific to you. When purchasing your shoes, make sure you are fit by someone who is trained to watch you walk, understands the mechanics of the foot and has a background in running. Here’s a hint; that likely is not the case in big box stores.

 

You will also want to be specific about your training goals. A shoe that might be used for a trail run could be a disaster if you are going for speed on the road. Most definitely the trainers or court show you have in your closet were not built for running and could cause injury when used incorrectly.

 

Here are a few other golden rules when considering your footwear:

 

  • Running shoes have a shelf life of 6 months or 500 km
  • If you run on back to back days, you may want to alternate between two pairs of shoes to maximize shock absorbency
  • Feet can swell on long runs, choose a show that fits well but is not too snug as to not compromise circulation
  • If you wear orthotics or insoles, you will need to remove the insoles that come with your new shoes before inserting your orthotic

 

Surface

 

You probably haven’t thought much about the surfaces you walk on in the city but when it comes to running, surfaces have a big impact on the forces and stress you put through your body. Here are a few things you may want to consider when you choose your route.

 

Sidewalk

 

Avoiding the sidewalk can be pretty tough in the city. Traffic and lack of green space usually mean that at some point in your run you are ending up on the sidewalk. Cement is a pretty unforgiving surface that increases ground reaction force and impact on your joints. When planning your run, try to minimize your time on sidewalks or alternate this with another surface when planning your runs for the week.

 

Asphalt

 

Ok, I’ve just kicked you off the sidewalk so where do you go? Well on sleepy streets the road can be a good alternative. Asphalt is a much more forgiving surface than cement. One thing you may not have previously noticed though is that most of our city streets aren’t actually level and are slightly slanted to allow for drainage. That means your legs will experience difference forces because of the angle. One solution is to stop at the half-way mark and return along the exact same route by which you came so the opposite leg experiences the same stresses. If you choose this method, make sure you safely observe the flow of traffic and stay safe.

 

Trail

 

For many people trail is king. It can be the most challenging run but also the best surface. The forest floor provides the most cushioning but can be unpredictable with its host of tree roots, gravel and sharp turns. Ultimately these same hazards that make footing challenging also provide the best conditions for strengthening both your lower limbs and core. Be sure to keep your eyes a few feet ahead of you to anticipate roadblocks and slow your pace to accommodate for the terrain.

 

Track

 

If you want the ultimate in cushioning, try the track. Tracks can be a great alternative when you can’t find a trail and want to get off the road. They are staples at most local high schools and are easily accessible. There is one golden rule with track running however, you need to switch it up. Indoor tracks will often have a directional schedule so that you change your push off leg on alternate days as you round the continuous corners but you will likely have to take this upon yourself if you head outdoors.  

 

Stay tuned for our next instalment in our learn to run series when we discuss how to craft your learn to run program (and actually let you leave your house).

Until then, happy running.

 

Melanie Stevens Sutherland, Clinic Director & Senior Orthopaedic and Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist

Melanie is a graduate of McMaster University and brings 17 years of experience as a senior physiotherapist to Body Co. She has enjoyed a long tenure working with active populations at prestigious sport medicine clinics. Past clients include Provincial, National and Olympic level athletes as well as members of the National Football League, the Canadian Football League, the Ontario Hockey League, the American Hockey League, the National Lacrosse League and Major League Soccer.

Following the birth of her own children, Melanie developed a strong interest in women’s health. She has taken specialized courses in pelvic floor physiotherapy and women’s nutrition. She is passionate about helping women find strength and confidence in their post-natal bodies following pregnancy and delivery.

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