Running: Tips to keep you on track

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Robyn is a Sports Performance Analyst and Biokineticist at the Thornbury Clinic. Robyn has a degree in Biokinetics and specialises in injury rehabilitation.

Running is one of the most popular recreational activities, enjoyed by a variety of people all over the world. With its numerous benefits, it’s no wonder many have kicked Netflix to the kerb and started pounding the pavements.

Running not only improves endurance, bone density and muscular strength, it also decreases blood pressure and improves cardiac health. There are a multitude of lessor known additional advantages to running, namely, those participating in regular endurance activities have higher immunity, decreasing their risk of disease and contracting viruses such as cancer and COVID-19. Additionally, running assists with blood sugar regulation, lessening the risk of developing diabetes and assisting with diabetes in monitoring and controlling glucose levels. Regular physical activity encourages a healthy circadian rhythm which helps to combat insomnia and promotes healing, assists with hormone regulation and has mood boosting qualities. Many studies show physically active people have increased cognitive function and improved memory.   

Nothing is more frustrating than setting out to achieve your goals, only to be set back by nasty niggles, aches and pains. Whether you’re new to the sport or a running veteran here are a few tips you can use to try and prevent injury from getting the best of you.

  1. Progress gradually. Whether it’s your first time out on the road or you’re a regular treadmill warrior, always try to follow the 10-15% rule. Running is a high impact activity and although it is beneficial for your body, it places a lot of stress on your bone structure, muscles and joints. By progressing mileage 10-15% gradually (weekly) you will safely increase your distance without placing too much strain on the body.
  2. Avoid the heel strike. Heel striking increases forces affecting the ankles, knees and lower back. The repetitive impact damages internal structures such as cartilage and tendons. This exposes runners to a high risk of developing injuries such as shin splints, knee pathology and plantar fasciitis. A lower impact can be achieved by practicing more of a midfoot strike.  
  3. Warming up and cooling down are fundamental. Many of us are under daily time constraints. Whether you’re picking up the little ones from school, trying to meet a deadline or getting the last assignment of the semester finished, don’t compromise on your warmup and cool down. Warming up prepares the body for physical activity by increasing the body’s core temperature, loosening joints and improving blood flow to the muscles. Dynamic stretching prepares tendons and muscles to adapt to the stresses of exercise, improving the ability to perform. Cooling down allows the body to return to its pre-exercise state. The core temperature decreases and blood is no longer shifted to the extremities. An effective cool down promotes recovery and decreases post workout stiffness.
  4. Change your shoes regularly. Footwear is imperative in injury prevention. Whether a highly supportive or light sole, running shoes are specifically designed to perform a purpose. The more mileage done in a pair of shoes, the more changes to their structure. Changes include a decrease in the shoe’s ability to absorb impact and provide the support your foot needs. Using an old pair of shoes affects posture and overall running style which can promote and cause injury. A good estimation of your trusty trainer’s life span is to keep track of your mileage. Shoes should generally be replaced every 300-500 miles.   
  5. Strength training is VIP. Most runners focus on getting miles under the belt rather than developing their strength. Depending on where and how you run, certain muscles and body structures may be more stimulated than others. This can cause muscular imbalances, and damage to cartilage, ligaments and tendons. Regular strength training, done weekly or in strength blocks, can improve the body’s ability to withstand stress and correct any imbalances present. The stronger the body, the better you will perform and the less likely you are to experience any setbacks.

The best way to limit the risk of incurring injury is to understand your personal running style. Running can be divided into a number of components. These include stride length, cadence, arm cycle, foot strike, loading response (through the foot), knee drive, loading response (through the hamstring), torso rotation, head position, and double flight.  All these elements work together to produce your unique running gait or the gait cycle.

The most effective way to assess all these components is through a running gait analysis. An in-depth assessment includes evaluation of all running elements, concentrating on angles and positioning of the limbs throughout the gait cycle, and quantifying percentages of time spent in each phase of the gait cycle. This is done with biomechanical assessment programs, motion analysis equipment and video motion capturing data. We are privileged enough to have this equipment at the Thornbury Clinic Active site. Our assessment is quick and easy; all you need to do is place our specialised motion analysis inserts into your shoes and show us what you’ve got! After our assessment, we will take you through the motion analysis data and video footage explaining the angles and position of key areas of the body during your gait cycle. We analyse the data and then develop a personalised gym program designed to address and enhance your unique gait cycle. Making use of this programme will assist you in achieving your goals and keep you on track for improved performance, enjoying your running and general health and fitness. Try it I’m sure you’ll like it!

If you’d like to try it, you can book in with Robyn by contacting us at info@thethornburyclinic.co.uk or calling 01454 838366.

Book now