Running – Have you started a new year’s resolution to get moving?

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There are some key tips that you need to know before you start so you can prevent injuries at the first hurdle. In these uncertain first few days of 2021, even with lockdown, we are permitted to do exercise at least once a day. So you have no excuse not to get outside for this daily opportunity.

If you are working from home and are sitting in front of your computer screen for many hours a day, you need to get some fresh air and get out of your four walls. With this latest lockdown happening in Winter it is even more important for your mental health to get outside. And with running you can go for any length of time you like! If you are already a runner then you will be used to running at this time of year. However, if you are just starting out and have decided to pick up the pace from the many walks all of us have been doing then I’m going to go through some useful tips on stretching to avoid common injuries such as runner’s knee, shin splints and ankle/heel pain. To help you try and avoid these, you just need to make sure you have the right kit and right plan before you start.

For beginners, making sure your footwear is supportive is key. I appreciate that with the current restrictions going into a running shoe shop to get your gait properly assessed isn’t possible. So if you’re buying shoes online then look at the buying guides on the websites on what you should consider for new shoes. These are some of the questions you should be asking:

  • Do you have high or dropped arches?
  • Do you already wear orthotics in your everyday shoes? If so you’ll need to allow extra room for these.
  • Do your feet overpronate (ankles rolling in) or oversupinate (rolling out)?
  • What surface will you be running on? Road, grass, stony trails
  • Are you running short or long distances?

With any running shoe you’ll need to allow about a thumb width between your toe and the front of the shoe so always consider this when ordering the right size.

So once you have the right shoes, if you haven’t run for a while or ever then you need to start slowly. Your body will need to get used to the different way of moving and you’ll likely to find muscles that you didn’t realise you had making themselves known if you don’t prepare! With an initial run, you can start with a fast walk for 2 minutes. Then introduce a jog for 2 minutes and then return to a fast walk. Repeat this pattern 5 times and then on the second run add another set in and build this up each time.

With any type of exercise whether running or cycling, preparing your muscles before you start and then afterwards is going to help prevent injury. I would recommend you start with a fast walk for 5 minutes and then stretch.

Here are my 5 stretches that I recommend you do pre and post a run.

1. Hamstring stretch (back of thigh):

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Place one leg behind your other leg and lean forward slowly. Go to the point where you feel the back of your thighs starting to stretch – hold this position and breathe in/out for 10 seconds. Come back up to standing. Don’t bounce on this stretch but if you repeat with the other leg behind you may feel a different stretch which can indicate you have a stronger/weaker hamstring on one side. This is where you can work on strengthening the weaker side to balance your gait.

2. Adductor muscles stretch (inner thigh)

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Standing upright with your legs in a wide stance, with your feet facing forward bend one knee. This makes you lean to that side and you’ll feel a stretch on the inside of the other leg. Again go to the point where the stretch starts and hold this for 10 seconds but keep breathing. Do not go too far with this stretch but each time you do this you may find you go further. Repeat on the other side.

3. Quadriceps and Hip Flexors (front of thigh and groin)

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Using a wall, gate or fence on your run, hold onto this for support as you stand on one leg. Bend the other knee back so you’re bringing your foot towards your bottom. Then pull your foot back which will bring your thigh backwards – you are extending your hip. You should feel a stretch on the front of your thigh and in the groin – again go to the start of the stretch and hold this position. Hold for 10 seconds and then slowly release – repeat twice on each side.

4. Gastrocnemius & Soleus Muscles (upper and lower calf muscles)

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Find a step or kerb and hold onto something if you need to. For the gastrocnemius muscle (the belly calf) stand with your toes on the edge of the step and your legs straight. As you drop your heels down you’ll feel a stretch at the back of your knee – hold this stretch for 10 seconds and breathe. Then relax and repeat again.

To stretch the soleus (deeper and lower calf muscle) bend your knees before you do the heel drop and you’ll feel a stretch lower down in the achilles area of your lower leg. Hold for 10 seconds and breathe and then repeat once more.

5. Triceps and Latissimus Dorsi muscle stretches (upper side and back of upper arm)

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Standing with your arms above your head bend your right elbow so your right hand is resting on the top of your shoulder. Place your left hand on the front of your right elbow. Pull the right elbow backwards very slightly and then side bend your body towards the left until you feel a stretch in the armpit and front facing side of the right upper arm. Hold this stretch for 10 seconds and breathe. Repeat on the other side.

I hope these stretches help you feel like your body is ready to run and also do repeat them afterwards to help the muscles repair too. Good hydration and nutrition in addition to a day in between your runs in the first couple of weeks will all help to prevent injury.

In the next blog, I will cover some common running injuries which you may unfortunately had the misfortunate to experience. I really hope you can avoid these and good luck with kickstarting 2021 with the right plan of action – we all need to feel more positive at the moment and getting running again will definitely lift your spirits!

If you have any questions or are experiencing pains during running then I’d be very happy to answer your questions. Just drop me a line at charlotte@charlottehuntosteopaths.co.uk

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