For some, it’s about setting goals or staying fit. For others it is about stress relief and the freedom running can provide. No matter the reason, there are many rewards.
Whether you’re training for a marathon, returning to running or just beginning, it’s important to ease into a routine to allow your body to adapt. Gradually increase distance to establish a base of fitness. After you have developed your base of fitness, you can gradually increase your speed and pace over time. Don’t set out to win your age group in your first race. This approach will likely lead you to an injury. As you prepare for a race, listen to your body. Because your muscles are adjusting to the stresses of running, you may need to take a day or two off. It’s important to try to hit training program targets, but don’t stick so firmly to a program that you ignore warning signs and injure yourself. Increasing your weekly running distance by more than 10 percent from week to week can be unsafe. Runners in their mid-30s and older should take age into consideration when returning to running or starting a regimen for the first time. Their bodies have changed, and they must make adjustments to their training routines to accommodate these changes. Take time to adjust and build your base mileage before training for a race. Ambitious goals can sometimes make you ignore pain, which can lead to injury.
Myth 1: Recovery is a break from training.
Recovery time isn’t a break from training, it is part of it. Runners, particularly those at the Master’s (40+) level, can consider taking recovery time every third week instead of every fourth week during a marathon training program. Consider using cross-training, such as the elliptical or bike, to substitute for recovery runs to give your legs a break. This allows you to rest your legs while remaining on track for a successful race.
Myth 2: Push through the pain.
Runners know how to handle pain. But how do you determine what pain is normal and what is cause for alarm? Muscle soreness that eases as you run can be normal. However, the pain you should be concerned about may have one or more of the following characteristics:
- Pain that does not subside within several hours after running.
- On a pain scale of 1-10 (10 being worse pain), pain that exceeds 3 while running.
- The onset of sharp pain.
- Pain that wakes you up at night.
- Persistent pain that worsens when you run.
- Pain that persists in the same area, every time you run.
If you experience any of the above, a physical therapist can help determine the cause of the problem and recommend effective cross-training exercises, identify when poor form may be contributing to your pain, and prescribe necessary changes in training to allow the body to repair itself.
Myth 3: You can zone out on a run.
Running can clear your mind and provide stress relief. However, thinking about your form while running can help you make subtle improvements. Listen to how you run, notice how you strike the ground. Does it sound the same on both sides, or is one foot strike louder? Notice where your foot lands relative to your body. Is it in front of you, or relatively underneath you, which is often less stressful? Recognize that as you fatigue, your form is more likely to be compromised. Usually when a runner’s form is compromised, mechanical stress increases and injury can soon follow. A physical therapist can do a running analysis for runners to help improve form thus helping to reduce injuries.