This one may seem obvious, but I am amazed at how many people never include
stretching into their running routine. Stretch immediately after your run to help the muscles relax and lengthen. Focus on the muscles you use heavily during the run: calves, hips, hip flexors, hamstrings, and quads. Make this part of your running ritual and don’t allow muscles to become tight and affect how your body functions.
Another seemingly obvious tip, but not many people warm-up or warm-up correctly. This should be done immediately before you run and should focus on achieving two things: increase of body/muscle temperature and moving all necessary body parts through a full range of motion. Warm muscles not only perform better, but they are injured much less than cold muscles. Also, moving your necessary body parts (ankles, knees, and hips) through a full range of motion allows the tissues to become accustomed to global movements so that your running stride does not introduce anything new. I am a big fan of incorporating full body squats and walking lunges into my pre-run warm-up as these both achieve your warm-up goals.
3. Avoid Concrete Surfaces
While you will not always have control over the terrain you have to run on it is wise to avoid concrete if at all possible. It is the most unforgiving surface and makes your body absorb more forces than other surfaces. While sometimes you must run on a sidewalk, the asphalt in the street is much more forgiving on your joints and easier on your body.
Many people think that they can just go to any sports store and pick up a pair of ‘running’ shoes. This couldn’t be further from the truth. If you are planning on running on a regular basis go to a true running store and have them fit you for shoes that match your running form. They will watch you run, analyze your feet, and suggest the best shoes specific to you.
5. Replace Old Shoes
Once you have found shoes that you like and that have been fit properly to your running style, make sure that you don’t overuse them. Shoes do have a limited life to them and they can only provide you proper support for a finite amount of miles. As shoes wear and surpass their life expectancy, they can begin to alter how your foot lands and therefore how your body absorbs shock. Old shoes can begin to cause pain once your body starts to absorb these altered forces repeatedly.
6. Train Smarter, Not Harder
The idea that better runners just run more miles could not be further from the truth. While putting in miles does help to improve your endurance, do not think that this is the best and only way to improve. Training all your body’s varying systems will help you make bigger improvements without having to keep increasing your mileage. Incorporating speed runs, temps runs, hill repeats, and recovery days will help you improve strength, cardiovascular endurance, and muscular endurance. All of which are very important to your running success.
7. Take Time Off
Most people do not appreciate and understand the importance of recovery. Your body makes the real gains when it has time to recover and build from the previous runs. Without proper recovery overuse injuries are much more likely. Not only that, but if you do not allow your body to properly recover then you will not be able to maximize the gains from previous training sessions. While you may feel that you can run everyday, take regular days off and let you body regenerate.
8. Train on Surfaces that Mimic the Race
Your body must slowly adapt to all parts of running in order to safely progress. This is idea is most commonly seen in the rules associated with increasing mileage. You should never make large increases in mileage, but rather slowly increase mileage and build a proper base. This same philosophy goes for the surface you run on most often. If you know that you have to run a race that is comprised of a high proportion of concrete (like many beach runs are), then be sure to mix in some concrete runs into your training. Yes, I know that one of the previous tips was to avoid concrete altogether, but if you must run a race on concrete then you must let your body adapt to running on that type of surface. Same goes for training on a treadmill. While this is never advised, as the biomechanics are very different than outdoor running, you can’t train on the soft treadmill and then expect your body to handle the asphalt or concrete with ease.
Many runners think that since they run they do not need to do any other form of exercise. You must remember that running is a sport and the body must be strengthened in order to properly handle the demands of any sport. Many running injuries are simply due to the fact that various muscles are just too weak. There are plenty of exercises that you can do without weights and from your own home, but you must make sure that the hips, legs, and core are strong enough to withstand long duration and high intensity runs. The stronger your running muscles are the better you are equipped to not lose form when you are tired and avoid dangerous compensations within your running gait.
10. Listen to Your Body
While everyone tries to avoid running injuries very few people actually listen to their bodies. If something begins to hurt of feel different during your runs don’t let it get out of control. First, pay attention to what you feeling and when you begin feeling it. Then see if you can increase your stretching throughout the day and do some self-therapy at home by rolling out with a foam roller. If you can’t seem to reduce the pain and it continues to increase have a health professional analyze it for you. The sooner you address the issue, the easier it is to fix. Don’t be a hero and push through it. This usually makes it worse and you will end up taking time off from running completely.
Dr. Vince DiSaia, DC, CSCS
Dr. DiSaia then became a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and provided personalized fitness training both privately and at fitness facilities. He decided to increase his knowledge of the human body and attended Southern California University of Health Sciences. Four years later he received his doctorate of chiropractic from SCUHS with Magna Cum Laude honors. Since then, Dr. DiSaia has continuously sought out new ways to help his patients and clients perform their best. His expertise with the musculoskeletal system is greatly enhanced through his Full Body Certification as an Active Release Techniques (ART) Provider. He has been certified as a Kinesio Tape practitioner and is also a Certified Level 2 Medical Golf Fitness Instructor (CGFI) through the Titleist Performance Institute.
Dr. DiSaia currently runs his own practice in Lake Forest, CA, and also works in conjunction with other healthcare providers within a medical clinic in Foothill Ranch, CA. He resides in Orange, CA where he lives with his wife Marci and his sons Carson and Cole.