Hi, Friends! So let’s just start by saying I’m no running expert, not even close, I haven’t even yet completed a half marathon (but I’m working on it, fingers crossed this month.) However, I have been running as my preferred form of activity for over five years now. I know a lot of people are thinking of taking up running as part of their New Year’s Goals or resolutions so, today I just want to share, from my experience, what I wish I would have known before I started running.
You Need To….
1. Strength Train
When I first started running, I was a chronic cardio ADDICT. I didn’t know anything about strength training; I didn’t even know it existed beyond what guys did in the weight room. One time my friend Danielle took me over to the weights and showed me stuff her boyfriend showed her, I hated it. If you decide to pick up running it is a MUST to strengthen your ENTIRE body, especially your glutes (all of them, yep it’s not just one muscle), hamstrings, quads, VMO, core, and even upper body. You need to strength train everything like it was your job. Running puts repetitive stress on the body, your muscles need to be strong to adapt to that stress, especially with increased frequency or distance. Strength training is not negotiable, full body, 2-3 times a week.
2. Have The Right Shoes/Analyze Your Gait
When I started running I figured a pair of good tennis shoes would do it; I ran in a pair of Nike neutral shoes. I had tons of knee pain diagnosed as “runners knee” almost immediately after starting to run (like six months later). I went to the Sports Medicine Clinic at the University of Arizona and was given a list of stretches to do. After that I switched to a more stable Asics, then I had tons of hip pain. Eventually (much too late) someone told me, or maybe I read about the run store that films you while you are running, analyzes your gait, and suggests shoe inserts and the right pair of shoes. Going there helped me get rid of the hip pain, but it came back. For some runners, I know they are fine with the suggestions from the run store. Other people, like myself, might need custom orthotics do to genetic body mechanics (limited ankle mobility is my issue or one leg that is just a tiny bit shorter than the other). Get set up initially, so you don’t have any problems!
3. Know How To Foam Roll
You need to know how to use afoam roller, before and after EVERY. SINGLE. RUN. The research isn’t clear because it’s a hard topic to research. Due to individual variability response to exercise. However it is highly regarded as a fantastic tool to promote recovery and help with muscle imbalances, it’s not a catch-all, but it helps. If you want to check out this foam roller video I made and this excellent phone app for more instruction. Even more important, you need to know what is most important for YOU to foam roll, this may regularly change, see number 6.
4. Pay Attention To Your Nutrition/Weight Loss
Running initially started out as a way to manage weight and promote weight loss. There isn’t anything wrong with this but know if you are upping your running and super restricting calories, protein, or carbs you’re increasing your risk of injury. First and foremost priority should be recovery, weight loss should be achieved by slight calorie deficits not running 10 miles and not eating. Most Sports Dietitian’s (including myself) recommend losing weight in a pre-training season or within the first 3-4 weeks of training, if you have a significant amount to lose I recommend you seek guidance and advice to help you fuel right for your runs while promoting weight loss, so that you can keep it off even when the race is over.
5. Seek Support (from experienced professionals)
THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT POINT IF YOU REMEMBER NOTHING, REMEMBER THIS! I have a post planned (for next week) discussing the risk of injury associated with training for sport. In sum, some people will do all the wrong things and never get injured. Some people will do all the right things and always get injured, likely we all fall somewhere in between. It’s a good idea to seek the support from a good trainer, massage therapist, physical therapist/chiropractor, run coach, experienced friend and whoever else will talk to you about running. The most important thing is that they teach you about YOUR body. They will show you if you under/overpronate, have weak hips, over dominate quads, limited range of motion in the ankle, high/low arch, etc. (all the above/none of the above)… AND HOW TO MANAGE IT! According to my amazing and very honest chiropractor who has gotten me back to be the runner I’ve always wanted to be, “I don’t have a great running foot.” As my muscle imbalances change, so does his advice and he keeps me ready to run.
The thing is I thought I had support before; I thought I knew about my body. I figured I was doing everything right, I thought to change my shoes was the answer to everything, but in reality, it wasn’t the answer to anything. No one is perfect; every single person out there has different muscle imbalances, areas of weakness/strength, and nutrition needs. If you stay on top of it, do your research, then you can have beautiful rewarding running experiences for a lifetime.
I was motivated to write this post for two reasons. Firstly, because I love running and want to share the sport with as many people who love it as I do. Secondly, because when I worked at the gym, I would meet new runners all the time showing signs of setting themselves up for pain and crappy results. I wanted to talk with them and tell them everything I knew… but they might have thought I was crazy…
You might feel that this seems a little intense, in actuality, it is intense. We tend to think that running is something every can and should be able to do. For the most part, this is true, some people say we are genetically engineered to run, but anything worth doing is worth working for right?
The question of the day?
Are you a runner? Why or why not?
Despite everything I have been through, I love to run.
Experienced runners do you have anything to add to the list for new runners?