With next year’s London Marathon fast approaching, now is the time to start thinking about some serious training. As an acupuncturist I see many running injuries that might have been easily prevented with the right footwear and some good advice. And as a marathon runner myself, I know how frustrating it can be to have an injury in the middle of training!
So here are a my top 10 tips that I hope will help you run safely and injury free.
1. Have a programme to follow. Running aimlessly can be boring and difficult to stay motivated. With a programme for the week you know when you should be running and what type of running you should be doing, e.g. easy run, intervals, long run. Pin it up on the fridge where you can see it and you can plan your week accordingly.
2. Set a goal. This might be a race to train for or simply to reach a level of fitness or lose weight. Having a goal will motivate you to get out on the road on those wet and cold mornings when you would rather be in bed!
3. Motivating yourself can be tough, especially if you run first thing in the morning because of work. A good way to get out in the morning is to get your running gear ready the night before. Put it on the radiator so it’s nice and toasty when you put it on in the morning, and then get straight out there before you’ve had time to talk yourself out of it!
4. Make sure you have the correct footwear. Most running injuries I see in my practice are caused by runners wearing the wrong shoes. When we run the foot either pronates, supinates or is neutral, either way if your shoe doesn’t support this movement it will most probably lead to injury. Go to your local running shop and have your gait analyzed, then try several pairs to find the most comfortable for you.
5. Change your shoes after approximately 500 miles. I’ve worn many brands of running shoe and run thousands of miles, and in my experience this advice isn’t a marketing lie to make you spend more money, the cushioning does deteriorate enough to make a difference. Remember, if you can avoid injury it is a small price to pay.
6. Don’t waste money on expensive waterproof clothing. The most effective waterproofing you can get is your skin. It is more important to keep warm, so wear layers that you can remove. In the winter I find a base-layer worn close to the skin is ideal insulation. The only thing that you shouldn’t scrimp on is footwear!
7. Don’t eat more than you need. If you are running to lose weight, it’s a simple equation: burn more calories than you are taking in. But be careful that you are eating enough. A simple rule of thumb is to eat 3 meals a day, eat organic foods, avoid refined sugars, and drink 2 litres of water daily. So it pays to do your research or talk to a professional before embarking on a programme. If you are putting on weight or you are feeling dizzy, consult your GP.
8. Don’t listen to an ipod. Listening to music while you run can be dangerous but can also lead to injury. Not only does it block out the sound of traffic and other dangers, but music prevents you from developing an ear for your body’s natural rhythm. Running to the rhythm of an upbeat song may be quicker than your fitness allows, which can lead to injury.
9. Listen to your body. This is meant to be enjoyable, so if you are feeling exhausted or ill, either don’t run or change your planned run to something easier. Recovery is just as important as training – you will not get stronger without rest. There is always another day.
10. Stretching. Take at least 20 minutes to stretch after each run. If you are pushed for time at least stretch your legs for 5 minutes each, focusing on each muscle group. Your muscles are nice and warm and are ready to get lengthened after a run. If stretching is new to you or you are unsure of which stretches to do, seek advice and even if it’s a one off attend a Pilates class or hire a personal trainer to be shown the correct stretches. Regular stretching will also reduce the possibilities of injuries and will help keep your body in shape.
If you have any further questions about how acupuncture can help you or you would like to know more about running, please give me a call or send me an email.