Running is a wonderful form of exercise that can enhance physical fitness, coordination, and emotional development. However, improper techniques and a large amount of running can negatively impact the runner.
Overtraining injuries such as shin splints and iliotibial band syndrome are caused by running too much, too soon, and too fast. Your muscles and joints need time to adapt and recover from any type of training, including running. Therefore, improvements in the timing and distance of a run will not be instantaneous and too much training for a beginner will prove more harmful than beneficial. For improvements in strength or cardiovascular fitness, consider the 10 percent rule of training. The rule usually pertains to the increase of the intensity of training by 10 percent per week. For example, running 10 miles in the first week and running 11 miles in the next week. However, a 3-5 percent increase in distance per week can be more appropriate for marathon runners. Also, having a pattern of intensities and distances such as a hard day/easy day/easy day pattern for training is beneficial to allow time to recover and improve gradually.
The action of running has a high impact nature; the forces can reach two to three times the body weight with each stride and even more so if running downhill. To reduce the stress on the joints, other aerobic activities such as swimming, cycling, elliptical training, and rowing can be used as an alternative to running on some days. The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP) recommends that adults 18-64 years old have 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity per week, which can include a mixture of the activities listed above.
For running technique, an important biomechanical aspect of running to consider is the length of each stride. Overstriding can increase the risk of injury due to the high impact of the heel colliding with the ground with a high force, which is also called a “heel strike.” A shorter stride will allow you to land with minimal force on your forefoot, which is called “forefoot striking.” Forefoot striking will reduce the force that is placed on your skeletal and muscular system and prevent injuries such as Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, and stress fractures.
- Slowly increase the duration and intensity of your runs.
- Use a 3-5 percent increase in distance per week.
- Have an alternating pattern that includes easy days and hard days for running.
- Use low impact activities such as cycling or rowing to supplement your aerobic activities.
- Try to have your aerobic activities total 150 minutes per week.
- Use a forefoot strike instead of a heel strike.
Websites for further information:
This tip was brought to you by Body & Soul Personal Trainer Constance Batore.