A few of my friends and I have been getting into running. I am no running expert, but I had a brief few months in 2010 when running was a big part of my life and I learned a thing or two. If you missed it, you can go back and read about my running history here. This post originally started as a Facebook message to my runner friends and one of them (jokingly?) called me a running blogger. When I started this blog, I knew this would eventually find its way here. The original message was pretty long, so I’ve broken it up into two parts. This one will deal primarily with tips on the actual action of running. Part two will deal mostly with gear to use before, during, and after running.
I don’t want to be a know-it-all because I don’t know very much, but I’ve been around some experts so I’ve been exposed to some stuff. Anything I can do to help, I’m glad to do. This time around, I am a little concerned about preserving my knees so I have been doing a little bit of research. My little research yielded a few tips:
– stretch (something I never did)
– take vitamins (something I never did)
– cross train (something I did maybe twice)
There are lots more tips but these are the easiest to address, I think. As you can see I did nothing I was supposed to during marathon training and I made it across the finish line. BUT, I was also not at all active during that time and I don’t think I had put any strain on my knees at that point in my life. Fast forward to 2013 and I am now an old lady and my knees are starting to feel it. Now I am stretching and taking vitamins AND cross training, so hopefully I can save my knees
Something that is very important to keep in mind is that you don’t want to do static stretches before you’re warmed up. Think about it like stretching a rubber band. When the rubber band is cold, it doesn’t stretch as easily and in extreme cases it can snap. As anyone who has done hot yoga can tell you, being in a hot room like that makes you much more limber and bendy. I’ve never done hot yoga, but I’ve heard from many people that this is the case and it makes perfect sense since your muscles are extra warm. You also don’t want to hit the ground running without any sort of warm up. My 10K running app starts me off with a 5 minute warm up walk, so that’s all I’ve been doing lately. Jillian Michaels talks a lot about dynamic stretching vs. traditional static stretching, so if I feel like going above and beyond, I’ll borrow some of her stretches from her 30 Day Shred.
This is a pretty important part of training that I basically neglected completely last time I was training. Some popular activities that other people do are yoga, weight lifting, swimming, cycling, etc. I don’t really like to do any of these things, but I am a fan of workout videos. My favorites are Turbo Jam Cardio Party and the aforementioned Jillian Michaels’s 30 Day Shred. Level one of the 30 Day Shred can be found on youtube here. I personally recommend just biting the bullet and purchasing it. It’s the only workout I’ve ever done that led to a visible change in my body. She will kick your butt in 20 minutes and you will love it!
This is pretty important to think about too. If you’ve all heard this before, just ignore me, but I’d rather say it than not. Running is a repetitive motion so if your form is bad it’s going to take a toll on your body. When your foot hits the ground, it should be flat. Do NOT let your heels strike the ground first. This is really hard on your ankles and I think it leads to shin splits. Another thing to avoid is landing on your toes. I hear this leads to shin splints too. Something that I’ve been trying to do is focus on landing lightly when I run, again to preserve my knees. One of my friends likes to call it “bouncing”, which is pretty true. When I land I try to focus on the moment my foot will leave the ground again rather than focusing on the moment it hits the ground. I think that tends to make my strides lighter and my knees happier.
Speed vs. Time
If you’re just getting started, I think it’s much more beneficial to pay more attention to the amount of time you’re out there running rather than how fast you’re going. You don’t want to burn yourself out before you’ve had a chance to really make some progress. The idea is to get your body used to being active for that amount of time. Speed can come later.
If you’re working on long distance running, you want to make sure all of your movements are beneficial. Try not to swing your arms excessively. Don’t hunch your shoulders. Don’t clench your hands into fists. If you’re going to be on your feet for a long period of time, you want to conserve your energy for running instead of wasting precious energy on unnecessary movements.
If you’re going to run, it’s of the utmost importance that you preserve your body and keep yourself from developing lifelong injuries. You only get one body. Knee pain/injury seems to be one of (if not the) most prevalent problems facing the running community. This year was my first time experiencing it and even thought it was mild, it was pretty consistent and that worried me. I took it upon myself to figure out what to do about it. Thankfully after a few weeks, I found a solution and things have been pretty smooth sailing since then. My particular knee pain was tied back to tight IT bands. Based on my internet research, this is pretty common. I invested in a foam roller and my runs and life have been so much more enjoyable since then.
I’ve seen a lot of knee bands, athletic wraps, knee braces, etc being used by athletes. While I am no expert, my understanding is that these things may alleviate the pain in the short term, but they do little to fix the overall problem. A knee brace will not fix an alignment problem if that is the source of your knee pain. A knee brace would not have loosened up my tight IT bands. I recognize that these tools are probably necessary if your knees are beyond repair, but if knee pain is new to you, I think it is definitely worth it to do some research and take some time to identify the source of your pain so you can try to address it rather than “sticking a band aid” on the problem.
Sound disgusting? They are. This happens when your longest toe hits the inside of the front of your shoe over and over again (running = repetitive motion). This happens most often when you’re running downhill since your feet have a tendency to slide forward. I am still messing around with this, but if you’re prone to this, buying shoes that are half a size to a full size bigger than you usually wear gives your toes more space before they hit your shoe. This helps, but does not entirely solve the problem. Something I’ve been doing lately is changing the way I tie my shoelaces. This site has a bunch of different ways to tie your shoelaces based on potential problems you may have. I’ve only tried the black toenails one but it’s working so far! I just have to tie my shoes pretty tight. The idea is for your shoe to be fastened to your feet so they don’t shift around so much when you’re running, but still leaving space around your toes. If you haven’t actually gotten a black toenail before but you’re prone to getting them, you will know because after running a lot or walking a lot (again, particularly downhill), you may feel tenderness when you press down on your toenail(s). If you’ve felt that before, you may want to take precautions to prevent it from developing further.
There are tons more things that can be said on this topic. Again, I’m not an expert so I’m not going to delve too deep into it. These are just a few of the most important things for me to keep in mind when running.