Running is the go-to activity to increase fitness and an ideal way to get the body doing what it’s made to do. But for every dedicated runner, there’s another who started with good intentions but hung up their shoes after a few months.
If you want to make it through those exciting and challenging first steps, give yourself a head start with these four essential tips.
An experienced runner can throw on just about anything and run well, but only because their body and technique have been finely conditioned. If you’re starting fresh, it’s crucial that you use shoes that will provide additional support and encourage your feet to land correctly.
Every time you go running you’re asking your muscles, joints and tendons to carry four to seven times your body weight. If you’ve never run before, that’s going to be far more than your body can handle without having the correct footwear to cushion the impact. The right shoes can also train your feet to land correctly, which you can read more about below.
So don’t throw on some second hand shoes or an old pair you found in the attic. Visit a physiotherapist or specialist shoe store so they can have a look at your feet and how you run to find you a pair that will keep you fast and healthy.
Everyone runs a little differently but everyone should at least try to run like Mo Farah. That may sound like setting the bar too high but there’s no better technique to try and copy than that of top tier athletes who have perfected the efficiency and sustainability of their run.
It takes months to break a bad habit, so try to hone your technique as early as possible. Generally, you want your hips to be positioned neutrally and level with your spine, which keeps your legs straight and your joints happy. When your foot hits the ground, you should be able to imagine a straight line going all the way along your spine, through your hips and down your leg.
Try short strides with your feet spending as little time on the ground as possible rather than long strides that pull you forward by the heel. Your foot strike – the first part of your foot that hits the ground when you’re running – should be as close to the middle as possible. As for the top half of your body, swing with your arms and not your trunk to keep yourself balanced and lift your head high for a good spinal position.
The first time you run, you’ll probably go for as long as you can until exhaustion forces you to stop. Then the next time, you’ll go five minutes longer, then five minutes longer after that. This sense of progress is addicting for first time runners but also guarantees they won’t make it past a few months.
Why? Your heart, lungs and muscles – the parts of your body that shut down when you reach exhaustion – adapt far quicker than your joints and tendons. While the rest of your body can keep pace with your rapid progress, your joints and tendons need to be eased into the added stress, otherwise you’ll damage them and could be knocked out of running for months.
If you’re running for the very first time, start by alternating between 3 minutes of jogging and 2 minutes of walking for 15 minutes, with two day breaks between each run. Gradually build up until you can run for the entire 15 minutes then, over three months, slowly increase the length of your run up to a continuous half hour. After that, don’t increase your load by more than 10% a week.
Don’t rush it! You can’t cheat anatomy.
The human body is made for running but if you’ve never run before it might be better adapted for sitting. This means a tilted pelvis, weak leg muscles and an unsupported spine. The typical desk job physique is poorly suited for running and will likely develop into bad biomechanics that can cause long term wear and tear to your tendons.
A physiotherapist can help you isolate the areas where you’re going wrong and which parts of your body need strengthening. Getting an assessment when you start out is far better than waiting until you have an injury, which could require weeks or months of rehabilitation.
At West London Physiotherapy, I use high speed cameras and thermal foot plates to get intimate detail of how you run and where you can improve. Then if you need it, I provide hands on training along with take home exercises to get you running at your best and fortify you against future injury.
If you want to start running on the right foot, call 0207 937 1628 now to book an assessment.
Kam Sowman BSc (Physio) MCSP MHCP
Musculoskeletal and Sports Physiotherapist
For any other questions regarding this topic please do not hesitate to contact me at West London Physio on 0207 937 1628 or email firstname.lastname@example.org