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Table of contents
Proper running form
So we talk about correct running form. That word can really be thrown around. I’m not sure there really is THE CORRECT running form, but there is running form that can make you run a lot more comfortable.
Starting from head to toe, when you’re running a 5k, you need to keep your chin a little bit down. Imagine like there’s a thread at the top of your head pulling you up. Make sure your chin isn’t too down because that’ll actually close off your airway a little bit, neither it is too far up because you’re not really sure where all that energy is going and you can feel the tension in your neck start to happen when you do raise your chin a little bit. So, try to keep your head level a little bit.
Notice where you’re holding tension. Slowly through a long run, you can start to feel your shoulders creep up a little bit and you can feel that tension in your shoulders and your neck. If you relax a little bit, it can also help you reduce the amount of energy that you’re using for your run.
Hold your elbows at about a 90% angle and hold a very small fist, almost having your fingertips just touching the palm of your hand, and just relax your hands. Throughout your run, when you start to feel tension building up, just shake your arms out a little bit and relax your shoulders.
When you’re running, swing your arms forward but be careful not to swing them across your midline. What that does is that it almost throws off your balance a little bit.
So, keep your hands relaxed, keep your arms relaxed and keep them back and forth but try not to go across your midline too much.
Hold your torso up and straight and engage your core so that you’re holding up a good posture. When you’re moving forward, don’t lean forward at your waist, but instead, lean forward a little bit just kind of gradually from your ankles all the way up to your shoulders.
Make sure your hips are forward and make sure they’re stable. One great thing about doing core exercises for running is that it keeps your entire core area stable while you’re running.
Sometimes when you’re out running, you might see people whose hips dip a little bit with each step. That can also cause injury down the road. So try to keep your hips stable and forward and don’t keep them pointed down but also don’t keep them pointed up too much.
Feet and legs
When you’re landing on the ground, you need to land right in the midfoot to the ball of your feet. Sometimes when you land on your heels, you’re actually landing too far ahead of your body.
What happens then?
When your body weight hits the ground, you’re creating a shock that’s going all the way up through your ankles, your knees, and your hips. Over time, that can cause a lot of discomfort and it may be possibly an injury. So again, try to think about having your foot land right underneath your body weight.
Cadence is simply how many times your foot hits the ground in one minute. It gives you something very simple and audible to focus one. Whether you have a metronome or you’re just counting in your head, cadence gives you a very easy point of reference to rely on.
When we get tired, we tend to just start to lope and drift in our stride. It doesn’t make sense when you first think about it but it’s more wear and tear and it’s harder on your muscles to take long loping strides. So cadence is what helps you shorten that stride up and helps you get more efficient by getting you back on your midfoot and off of your heel.
By working on your cadence, it really sets the foundation for muscle memory, rhythm, and stride length.
Once you get used to that cadence, it’s going to naturally help that stride length to come back and to get where you want it to be. When you start to focus on your stride length and focus on where you’re putting your foot down, it’s only going to make that just much more comfortable and it won’t feel so awkward because you’ll get used to just thinking about nice short quick strides.
How many strides do you need per minute?
Cadence is really easy to count. For most runners, we tend to drift somewhere between 160 up towards 170 strides in a minute. Ideally, you want to be more up in that 176, 178, 180, 182 range.
You don’t have to have a metronome, but if you have access to a metronome, walk in your place on your midfoot and just add some cadence to it to catch up with the beeps of the metronome.
Just try to stay in tune with your body and just check in every once in a while and notice where you’re holding tension.
Starting a running program can be hard enough as it is, but when you start to notice how much tension you’re holding, it can take more energy away than you actually realize. And as you start to build up in your runs, maybe working towards that 5K, 10K, or even half marathon, it can deplete a lot of energy that you’re working so hard to get through the race for.
Just try to relax and have fun.
Vary your running surfaces
If you have a track near you, it’s a great tool to incorporate into your training. Maybe you’re not quite sure how far you’re running. Well, a track is a quarter of a mile, so if you go around four times, that’s a mile. This makes tracks a great way to measure the distance that you’re running.
You can also use tracks for your weekly speed workouts. If you’re incorporating a speed workout into your weekly run, you can do an interval workout where you do repeats of a certain distance. Say you want to increase your speed, you can use these shorter repeats to help to do that. You can do quarter mile repeats or you can do half mile repeats at a faster speed than you normally do your longer runs.
Over time, as you build up possibly increasing the number of repeats that you’re doing, it will help you become faster in your longer runs.
Just be aware of a few common courtesies. If you’re going to the track to maybe just walk or do a very light jog try to stay on the outer lanes of the track. If you’re going to do a speed workout and you want to make sure that you’re running at quarter miles, try to stay on the inside lane. When you finish your repeat, try to stay on the outside lanes so that you don’t stop abruptly and get in the way of the person behind you. This way it’ll be a more enjoyable experience for everybody.
In short, use your local track as a tool to help add a little variety to your training or help increase your speed over time.
Interested in some history, keep reading …
Running track surfaces are important to know about because you should know what kind of cushioning you’re going to have under your feet and how to prepare yourself best when you’re starting to run on a tack.
The first types of running tracks were built in the 1950s and 60s and these were asphalt-based tracks. These tracks required a lot of maintenance, they fell apart easily and had to be resurfaced and leveled quite often making them not very cost-effective in the long run.
After that, cities moved to cinder-based tracks. Though cinder-based tracks were better and a little cheaper to make, they became hard in the winter and soft in the summer. They didn’t really provide the cushioning that today’s tracks would be able to provide.
So the trend recently has become to make tracks made of rubber, latex or polyurethane. A rubber or latex track holds up better, provides better cushioning and requires a much less maintenance than one or the other asphalt or cinder tracks.
With the rubber and latex tracks, you also have the opportunity to change the color as much as you want and you can have different depths of rubber or latex depending on how much cushioning you’d like.
The highest-end track is called a polyurethane track. Polyurethane tracks are for world-class track meets only and you probably won’t find this kind of track in your high school or your local park.
The tracks used more often right now are rubber and latex. When you have a rubber track, you have the option of using what they call virgin rubber which is untouched rubber just used for the track, or recycled rubber which is a little bit cheaper.
If you’re looking for some variety in your running training, a beach is a great way to get that. But be careful.
One thing to consider when running on the beach is that it’s going to be a different terrain than maybe if you’re running at your local track or on the roads. It’s going to be a little bit more challenging and you’re going to be more on the ball of your foot. You’re also going to be required to take smaller steps to get through the sand. Running on the sand also engages your calf muscles more, so be aware of all of that.
You might have to alter your run because of that. If you’re running for 20, 30, 40 minutes out on the roads, you may need to cut that down 5, 10 minutes because it’s going to be a little bit more of a harder workout. To make it a little bit easier, try to run closer to the water because the sand is going to be more compact and it’s not going to be as hard to run through.
Also, be aware of what time of day you’re running. Try to avoid the later morning, early afternoon when most people are there so that you won’t have to fight through the crowds. If you’re not familiar with the beach that you’re running on, try not to run barefoot. Also, you’re not really sure if there’s maybe broken glass, some sea glass, you never really know what’s there at the beach. So make sure you keep your running shoes on as tempting as it might to run barefoot.
Sand is a great feedback tool
A side note about running on sand is that it’s a great feedback tool. By looking at your footprints left you can discover things like how hard is your landing, how long is your stride, are you pushing off, and how narrow or wide your foot strike pattern is.
If you have a weakness in your technique, sand will make it visible for you to evaluate.
What about people with Plantar Fasciitis?
You should know that runners with Plantar Fasciitis require some additional support underfoot, and running on the sand tends to require even more support. So if you’ve been diagnosed with Plantar Fasciitis, grab a pair of supportive shoes and never run barefoot, or just avoid running on sand and save your feet the trouble.
So if you do have a beach nearby, try to get over there so that you can have a change of scenery.
You’re not always going to be running on a road, track or grass, and at some point, you’re likely to find yourself running on a treadmill.
While it’s not completely obvious, there are some key differences when running on a treadmill that can alter your technique.
For starters, the key element that allows you to move forward and running on the ground is that you’re falling forward over support on every step. When on a treadmill, you’re not able to harness gravity the same way. Falling is negated because the belt is moving beneath you in the opposite direction. This slight difference can lead a runner to simply shuffle their legs back and forth rather than moving their entire body.
There are three major errors that happen when running on a treadmill and these errors will most likely lead to pain and discomfort.
In this instance, the runner is exhibiting an exaggerated range of motion. This is happening because she isn’t pulling her foot off the belt fast enough leading to her support foot falling far behind her body. Subsequently, the airborne foot will have to reach out far ahead in an effort to counterbalance the body.
How can this be corrected?
This can be corrected by increasing cadence. Your foot coming off the ground faster will lead to a shorter stride.
Bending at the waist
Here the runner’s upper body is hunched over. This will typically happen as fatigue sets in towards the end of a workout.
How to fix this
To fix this, simply run for ten to twelve steps with your hands clasped behind your back. This will help you align your body position to be more upright.
Landing ahead of the body
This deviation is related to overstriding. The lack of falling encourages the runner to exhibit an excessive heel strike. This mechanical flaw puts undue stress on your knee joint which might lead to a serious injury.
How to conquer this …
To help conquer this, you should increase the incline. This will help you simulate falling forward in an effort to minimize your excessive heel strike.
The truth is most runners are unaware of how they’re running. Be sure to film yourself the next time you’re on a treadmill to see exactly what errors you’re committing.
Running on a treadmill is different than running on the ground. However, if you stay focused on avoiding these three common errors, you’ll be able to safely go through your workouts and achieve your fitness goals.
When you run off the beaten path, you’ll probably be running UPHILL, DOWNHILL, or on an uneven trail.
When running uphill, most runners tend to shift their focus to pushing off and pumping their arms too much. Not only will this fatigue you faster, it also opens the door for muscle strains and cramps. You can still fall forward when running uphill, so keep your focus on a faster cadence to accommodate this variation in incline while you’re running.
When running downhill, many runners over-accelerate increasing their stride length which in turn leads to excessive heel strike. The truth is we don’t have to fall forward when running downhill because the incline of the hill provides enough acceleration. Your goal should be to stay upright and descend in a controlled manner. That way you’ll have a higher cadence and a shorter stride length.
When you’re on a trail, the surface is unpredictable. There’s a greater risk of injury due to the uneven terrain. If you’re landing out ahead of your body, you’re exposing yourself to injury, whereas the shorter stride length with a faster cadence gives you a very short time of support and gives you better chance to recover from a mis-step, rolled ankle or slide.
Ice is as close to running on a frictionless surface as you can get. If you land too far of your body or your support leg gets you too far behind your body, the risk of falling is extremely high. You must exhibit a great deal of consistency in your running technique throughout the run.
Generally, we don’t recommend running on ice.
The negative thing about running on the road is the camber of the road. You’re going to offshoot some of your mechanics by running on the roads a lot whereas you can control that a little bit more if you’re on a turf field or a trail.
First, it has to be short grass and has to be a good firm surface. Grass is wonderful because it offers you enough feedback that you can feel when you’re not running nicely. It’s uniform enough that you can run fast on it, but it has that cushioning in it that it is not that hard impact.
If I’m given the chance to choose between running on an athletic track or beautifully manicured lawn, I would go for the manicured grass every time. Grass deforms under your feet, slightly squishes out, and gives you the cushioning that washes away some kinetic energy.
When you start running on an athletic track, you say wow it’s really nice and feels so fast. But it actually acts like a trampoline and pushes straight back at you. So instead of dissipating some of those forces like grass would, it actually exaggerates and gives you back rebound which puts enormous stress on your Achilles tendon in particular.
That’s a quick look at what you can expect when you run on surfaces other than the road. Just remember, when running on these unpredictable surfaces, be sure to run more conservatively by increasing your cadence.
Runner’s knee is an inflammation under the kneecap. We also call runner’s knee Patella Femoral Syndrome.
The Patella is your kneecap and the femur is your thigh bone which is right underneath the kneecap. So runner’s knee or Patellofemoral Syndrome is a syndrome complex of inflammation and pain underneath the kneecap where it rubs under the femur or the thigh bone.
It comes about any time you change your running program. So if you run two miles a day for four days a week and you bump it up to five miles a day, that’s a significant change, and depending on your age or biomechanics that can cause inflammation underneath the kneecap and cause Patellofemoral Syndrome or pain in your knee just underneath your kneecap.
Let’s say if you run three miles, three times a week and then you go on vacation for two weeks, don’t run. If you come back and restart three miles, three times a week there’s a very high chance you’re going to get runner’s knee especially as you get older because your body can’t accommodate as well.
Also, if you’re used to running 30 miles a week with no problems and you decide to change your running shoes that can cause runner’s knee.
If you used to run straight and level and you decide to start doing hills or even trails that can also cause runner’s knee.
In short …
Any significant change in your running program can cause Patellofemoral Syndrome or runner’s knee.
- Pain located in front of the knee.
- Related to anatomic and training factors.
- It’s worse with running especially incline and declines.
- Even stairs when not running can be difficult.
It’s important to know that when you get that discomfort or that pain then you’re going to start to get atrophy of your quadriceps muscle because your body doesn’t want to have a strong muscle leading to an injured joint. It’s called quadriceps because there are four heads to it, and the VMO or the inside of the quadriceps atrophies first. So now we lose that vector force and the quadriceps muscle pulls the kneecap to the outside.
If we look at the undersurface of the kneecap, it has a bump on and that bump needs to ride in the groove of the femur. And if the kneecap is pulled to the outside, you have the bump of the kneecap riding on the bump of the femur, and that’s what causes the discomfort.
This condition may not go away for years if you don’t take care of that.
In terms of treatment, what you really want to do is:
- Decreasing mileage or the aggravating activity to allow this to heal. After that you should be able to get back to running, so don’t get frustrated.
- Icing it like most overuse injuries and let it calm down a bit.
- Strengthening the quadriceps and increasing hamstring flexibility. Both of the looser hamstrings and the stringer quadriceps will lead to diminished symptoms from this condition.
- Cross-training a little bit by doing stationary bicycle, ellipse, swimming or something to allow this to heal while allowing your cardiovascular fitness to stay in shape and your craziness to stay away.
- Occasional surgical treatment is needed for this condition but not usually.
- Evaluation of the shoes.
After icing the pain, decreasing the activity and strengthening up the VMO with those easy activities, then you can start to gradually get back into running as you can.
The way to do that is to start off slow and increase gradually. Start doing a walk-jog (easy walking and then easy jogging) and if that doesn’t hurt, the next day you increase it to easy jog and then we gradually increase as we can.
In medical terms, shin splints is tendonitis which is an inflammation of the tendon or periostitis (the inflammation of the bone where the tendon attaches on the inside of the leg). It can be caused by overuse, increased running, mileage or biomechanical issues. Talking about biomechanical issues, some people are pronated and that can cause a little bit of extra stress on the inside of the tibia.
The other important thing about shin splints is that it can easily be confused with a stress fracture. It’s really important you differentiate stress fractures from shin splints because although the symptoms can be similar, the treatment is different.
- Pain on the inside of the leg (tibia) when running.
- The shin is often tender when examined.
- Relative rest and decreased running.
- Physical therapy, stretching.
- Correction of overpronation with appropriate shoes and/or orthotics. When a foot is a little more flat than normal, this causes some increased stress at the level of the inside of the tibia. When a runner is diagnosed with shin splints, they should really access the condition and make sure they run in the appropriate shoes matching the type of foot they have. Sometimes, orthotics are necessary even if you have ample support provided by your running shoes.
Stress fractures are a tiny crack in the bone. They’re usually due to the repetitive stress to the bone with a fatigued muscle. That’s what leads to a stress fracture.
Interestingly, sometimes they can’t even be seen on x-ray.
Again, a stress fracture is pain that comes from activity and that subsides with rest. Sometimes you can see it on x-Ray but other times you need an MRI or a bone scan.
Stress fractures can occur in many different areas, but the most common area is the tibia and that’s the area that can get confused with shin splints. They can occur up in the hip, the femur as well as the foot.
Tibial stress fractures
Now we’re going to speak specifically about tibial stress fractures. It’s a subtle fraction of the tibia that may not appear on a regular X-ray. It can be associated with increased mileage and biomechanical issues such as overpronation.
Again, it’s important to differentiate a stress fracture from shin splints. The way doctors often do that is shin splints often have an area on the tibia that’s tender and a little bit longer whereas the stress fracture may have a very small focal area of tenderness.
- Cessation of running. Sometimes, just by stopping running, people have no more pain.
- Occasionally, even with the cessation of running the pain persists and then the runner is required to either utilize crutches and sometimes casting and bracing. Very occasionally, this condition requires surgery but usually, it’s either cessation of running or immobilization.
When symptoms are resolved from a stress fracture, consider physical therapy. You also need to closely evaluate your shoes, reconsider your orthotics if you use them, and modify your training regimen.
Female Athlete Triad
Young women have to consider something called the “Female Athlete Triad”. This is a condition where on occasion younger women over-train and sometimes they’re dieting and they can get a triad which includes osteoporosis, amenorrhea (lack of menstrual period) as well as anorexia. Those three things combined have hormonal effects that can be very detrimental.
When they see a younger woman who is a runner with a stress fracture, podiatrists often think about Female Athlete Triad and sometimes refer them for further evaluation either with a pediatrician or with their primary care doctor.
Iliotibial Band Fraction Syndrome (Lateral runner’s knee)
This is an inflammation of the Iliotibial band which is really a tendon on the outside of the knee. It is the most common cause of lateral knee pain in long-distance runners and it’s caused by friction between that ITB tendon and the lateral femoral condyle.
Some people call it lateral runner’s knee, others call it Iliotibial Band Friction Syndrome, while others call it Iliotibial Band Tendonitis, but they’re all basically the same thing.
- Lateral knee pain on the outside which usually begins during running.
- It’s often worse with downhill running.
- Overpronation can be a contributing factor.
- Decrease or stop running especially downhill.
- Shoe modification or orthotics.
- Physical therapy and stretching of the Iliotibial band.
- Sometimes Anti-inflammatory medication can be helpful.
- Occasional cortisone injection directly into the area can be helpful as well.
- Surgical treatment is not common but occasional what specialists do is make an incision over the tender area and clean out the inflammation and hopefully alleviate some of these symptoms.
Plantar Fasciitis (Painful Heel Syndrome)
This is an inflammation and/or degeneration of the Plantar Fascia which is a tendon located in the heel. It’s common in runners and non-runners as well. (full story: 50 shades of Plantar Fasciitis by Runrepeat.)
The symptoms include:
- Pain on the inside bottom of the heel which is worse in the morning and while running. The reason why it’s worse in the morning is because when you sleep at night, your toes point down a little bit and that allows for the tendon to contract and tighten up at night. So when you try to walk in the morning, your ankle has to move up and it stretches that tendon and that’s why people have pain. But then as the morning goes on it stretches out and tends to feel a little better.
- PF can develop with increased mileage
- The pain can be quite debilitating and symptoms can be quite prolonged.
- Decreasing the mileage that you’re doing.
- Achilles and Plantar Fascia stretching. So anytime you have an issue with the tendon, oftentimes stretching that tendon is going to be very helpful.
- Formal physical therapy can be helpful.
- Night splints or casting can be helpful. The reason for the night splints is they stretch the Plantar Fascia at night.
- Sometimes cortisone injection can speed the recovery.
- Surgical treatment is the last resort.
- Shock Wave Therapy.
A hamstring pull is actually a muscle pull. The fibers that makeup one of the three hamstring muscles get irritated or stretched. There are different severities of the same injury; it can be very mild just to a minor strain where there’s no bruising or actual tearing of the muscle all the way to a complete rupture of the muscle or the tendon that attaches the muscles to the bone.
Typically, you’ll feel pain in the back of anywhere from the crease of your butt all the way down to the back of your knee. Typically it’s mostly going to be pain especially when you walk, run or straight your knee out.
Hamstring injuries occur when there’s a stretching of the muscle beyond its ability to withstand that stretch. So typically we see this in runners when they’re sprinting and they extend that knee out to stride causing the muscle to get pulled on and that can actually tear some of the fibers or completely tear them.
That treatments most podiatrists recommend for hamstring injuries is going to be:
- Relative rest.
- Have your hamstrings iced 3 to 4 times a day for 15 minutes at a time.
- Occasionally use anti-inflammatory medications.
- Apply compressive wraps to limit bleeding and swelling in the thigh.
When we start talking about that tight achy Achilles, I’m just going to give you some things from my perspective and some of the things I can do. But I’m not a physical therapist or a doctor and if you’re really concerned, definitely go check out with one. But this is good advice if you’re just someone who has a slight cranky Achilles and just needs a little extra TLC.
Usually, what happens when that Achilles gets a little bit sore is that that Achilles is a little bit loaded up, that calf is a little bit tight, that foot gets a little bit tight and a little bit sore and/or that Achilles has started to get loaded a little bit off-axis.
Culprit 1 – Loaded Achilles
If your Achilles is a little bit angry, it’s probably staying a little bit too loaded all the time. Basically, what I mean is that when you hit the ground, your calf and Achilles are going to release and relax a little bit. Here, the Achilles acts as an elastic tendon where you get this little bounce and rebound, but if you’re stiff, your Achilles doesn’t get that chance to release and thus becomes little angry.
How can that happen?
Sometimes it can occur from being a little bit further on your toes. Also, if you’re someone who’s a heel striker and all of a sudden you’ve started to shift towards running up on your toes, this is a massive change in such a short period of time that something is going to give and usually what gives is your poor Achilles.
Culprit 2 – Footwear
If you’re someone who’s shifted from a more supportive running shoe down to something a little bit more neutral, or from a shoe that had greater heel to toe drop to say a 4 mm or a zero drop shoe, you’re definitely asking for a lot more length out of your calf and Achilles and that adds a lot of stress as well.
Culprit 3 – Hip position
When we get tired, we tend to lose hip position. When you lose proper hip position, you’re not able to push through your hips as much anymore. Also, you don’t get that elastic return and snap form your hips, and to make up for that you start to push off the ground through your feet and through your calves a little bit more.
Practical things to do to help yourself out
The first thing to do is stop doing the thing that’s bothering you and your Achilles tendon. If you’re in a shoe where you jumped down too low of a shoe, maybe you need to go back to the shoes you’ve been training in for a little bit especially if you’re close to a race and your Achilles is bothering you.
Look above the issue and below the issue
Do your mobility and injury prevention exercises. I’ve learned a lot of tips and strategies from the mobility Wod Gang and Dr. Kelly Starrett. In case of an Achilles pain offset, Dr. Kelly recommends you “Look above the issue and below the issue”.
So if you have a swollen or irritated Achilles tendon, you don’t necessarily need to keep poking that because it’s just going to get worse. Instead, work on some of the tight tissue above the Achilles (the calf).
How to do that …
Grab a foam roller or anything you have with you and work your whole calf with foot circles. You can also roll Lacrosse Ball through the bottom of your foot. This is going to get some of the tension and adhesions that occur in the Plantar Fascia to release a little bit. Try to spend a couple of minutes on each foot. You can even work on your shin and foam roll your Anterior Tibialis and work through different aspects.
This way you’re going after your Achilles but what you’re trying to do is hit all the areas below and above. This is going to help your Achilles out a ton.
How to avoid running injuries
One of the main goals of runners is to be able to perform at the highest level possible and one of the ways to do that is by incorporating proper warm up and proper cool down into their training sessions. A lot of us know that we should do that but a lot of us don’t actually take the time to do that.
When you try to warm up, try to incorporate some type of light activity to increase the heart rate enough to get the blood flowing and get the oxygen to the muscles before they start running. This will allow you to have better flexibility and have better reaction time. The muscles and joints will be more prepared to accommodate to the stress you’re going to put on them. Through proper warm-up, you protect against injuries that can sometimes take months to let you get back to running.
You’ve certainly heard there are static warm-ups and dynamic warm-ups. You have to stay away from things like static stretches where you’re holding stretches for 60 seconds. Nearly every running guru recommends dynamic warm-ups because they kind of mimic the movements you’ll be doing when running. We recommend things as simple as walking, doing some high knees, some heel kicks and just getting your heart rate a little bit so that your muscles get warm and your joints get loose.
There are no official recommendations for warm-up, but somewhere around 5 minutes is usually a good amount of time to get the body ready for the workout ahead of it.
The first part of our warm-up is high knees. There are two different options and the first one is a beginner option.
The first option is going to be a stationary high knee. Make sure you’re bringing your knees up nice and high and that you’re engaging the front side of your body.
The second option is an intermediate option where you’re going to actually leave the ground. This simulates running better. Do each of these for about 10 seconds or longer until your muscles feel warm.
The second part of our warm-up is going to engage the back side of the body. Again, we have two different options for you.
The first one is a stationary heel kick. Make your that you’re bringing your heels up as far behind you as you can engaging your hamstrings.
The second option requires you leave the ground better simulating running. Do this for about 10 seconds or until you feel the muscles on the backside of your leg warmed up.
The next part of our warm-up consists of leg swings. If your balance is unsteady, make sure that you have something to hold on to such as a pole, a wall or a sign.
First, swing your legs forward and backward. When you bring your leg behind you, it’s really important that you don’t arch your back to get there. Make sure you get your stomach engaged and only swing as far as your leg wants you to swing.
The second one is a side to side leg swing. You’re going to be swinging out to the side and across your body. Again make sure that you’re not bending with your trunk and that you’re keeping it nice and still and just moving your leg.
Do each of these about 10 times on each leg or until your legs feel like they’re warmed up.
The final component of our warm-up is going to warm up the hip in a rotational plane. Start from outside to inside. Do this 5 times on each leg and then you’re going to go in the opposite direction from inside to outside.
The purpose of the cool down is to get your body back to a resting state so that your heart rate is back to normal, your breathing rate goes back down and your internal temperature goes down. So, doing low-intensity activities like walking, longer stretches and things like that should be enough to get your body back down to its normal resting place.
A good recommendation for a time of cool down is about 5 minutes.
As part of a cool down you need to integrate in static stretches and these are some static stretches that every runner should do.
Hip Flexor Stretch
The Hip Flexor is a very commonly tight muscle on runners and a lot of that has to do with us sitting all day. When it’s tight, the Hip Flexor limits our ability to get our leg behind us which then prevents us from running faster or from running with proper form.
The way we’re going to stretch it is in a half kneeling position. The most important thing is to make sure that you do not arch your back when you stretch. The reason why is that it stretches your back out not your muscle.
Start with you knee underneath your hips and round your lower back out which for most of you you will already feel a stretch on the front side of the leg when you do this. For those of you who don’t feel the stretch yet you can move a little bit forward without letting your back arch.
For those of you who can’t get into a kneeling position easily, there’s a standing modified version that you can do. Again, make sure you’re not arching your back as you do this stretch. If you need more of a stretch, you can reach up and across your body until you feel the stretch engage.
Each of these stretches should be held about 30 seconds to a minute depending on your tolerance, just make sure they’re general.
Gastrocnemius and Soleus Stretch
The next stretch that every runner should be doing is for the Gastrocnemius muscle and the Soleus muscle. Both of these muscles make up your calf muscle, but they’re totally separate muscles that both need to be stretched individually.
The first one is the Gastrocnemius. Make sure your toes are pointed forward and that you keep your back heel on the ground. You’re going to lean forward keeping your knees straight for this stretch. You should feel this stretching at about the back of your knee. Hold this for about 30 seconds to a minute and then we’re going to go into the Soleus stretch.
For the Soleus, we’re going to bend the knee and drop straight down from the position shown. You should feel this stretch a little lower in your calf which is where the muscle attaches. Again, hold for 30 seconds to a minute.
When should I replace my running shoes?
One of the most common questions runners often ask is “how often should I replace my running shoes?” It’s recommended you do so every 600 miles or 800 kilometers.
For the average runner, running 3 times a week 6 miles at a time that usually equates to somewhere between 8 and 10 months. Obviously, if you’re training for something like a marathon and you’re putting a lot more mileage on your shoes, you should be replacing your shoes more often.
Another thing to consider is if you’re running on consecutive days. If you’re doing so, then your running shoes are not having the appropriate amount of time to dry out and the midsole is not given enough time to rebound as well.
What you need to do is …
to alternate between two different pairs of shoes and you’ll actually improve the life of both of those shoes.
Some other considerations are the size of the individual. Obviously, if you’re a heavyset individual, you’re going to break your shoes down more often.
Or, if you have histories of having injuries, then obviously when that shoe starts to break down a little bit more and you start feeling those pains you’ve had once before then you’ll have to replace your shoes more often than somebody who has better foot mechanics and doesn’t have a problem or a history of injuries.
Another consideration is the type of shoe you’re running in. For instance, motion control shoes are designed for heavier individuals and therefore they’ll get more life of those shoes. On the contrary, lightweight shoes or minimal shoes are going to break down more often and so you’re going to have to replace them more often as well.
How else can we know if a shoe is starting to break down?
The sole wear. If the forefoot of your running shoes is starting to show through to that midsole or starting to get quite smooth, then obviously that’s time to replace your shoes. Likewise, if you’re starting to expose foam in the heel area, then you’ll want to replace that shoe.
I like to do a little bit of a compression test which is I squeeze that forefoot of the shoe and if I feel a lot of softness in that area, then that’s an indication that your shoe is losing its support and its cushion as well.
But how do you know if a sole is actually feeling soft or just if the shoe was soft to begin with?
Well, just go to your local running shoe store and squeeze the sole of your shoe and compare it to what they feel on the new shoe.
To be able to run nearly injury free for years, you have to do some strength training or cross training. Here are some quick thoughts regarding strength training for your running.
Most runners are very aware of their need to stretch or indeed foam roll. There’s actually a few runners that wouldn’t confess or state that they regularly stretch or roll around on the floor on their foam roller.
However, one of the biggest oversights that most runners make is actually they place strength training or stability training second behind stretching. One of the ironies of that is that not only they’re cutting their potential short by not getting the strength training done, but they are also as a result putting the horse before the cart. Strength training is so key because it has three effects on our running.
First, strength training primes the pump. This happens before we even contact the ground with our feet when we run. As we’re about to come in and land on our left foot or right foot, our body’s already pre-empting what’s going to happen.
Strength training has been shown to improve those neuromuscular reflexes such that when we do land and strike the ground, what occurs is a beautifully orchestrated set of muscle activations that both brake us, brake the fall, and absorb the energy as we strike the ground (which is 2 or 3 times the body weight) before these other muscles then propel us off for the next step. So, strength training helps to prime those muscles and make them more efficient in the reflexes – and that’s key.
Second, strength training minimizes injury risk. The reduction in injury risk comes as a result of the efficiency and better power of these muscles to absorb the ground reaction forces when we land on our feet. So the stronger and more engaged the muscles are as we land, the less chance there is of these ground reaction forces being deleterious and overloading the body and creating injury.
Third, strength training has been shown to be effective because it just makes us runners more efficient. So efficiency means for a given speed of running we are able to run faster and for longer for the same energy cost. Strength training builds endurance in key muscles that will stabilize the runner’s body.
As a result … we have better economy through our running technique.
Strength exercises should be a key part of every runner’s program. Don’t just clock up the miles and don’t just stretch or foam roll, but make sure you find time for some strength exercises.
We’re going to talk about 3 tips and 4 types of food to make sure you include in your diet every day.
Our best piece of advice is to put the kind of food into your body that will give you the results you want on race day.
So the three tips are …
eat ENOUGH food for your training, eat QUALITY food, and make sure that you’re getting the RIGHT kinds of foods.
So what kind of foods do you need? There are 4 areas: plants, proteins, carbohydrates and fats. These are the building blocks to a strong, healthy and injury-free runner.
Those provide the vitamins, minerals, nutrients and antioxidants that we need. Make sure these are the BULK of your diet. Think of:
- Leafy greens
- Cruciferous vegetables
- blueberries, strawberries, bananas, apples.
These are going to be the protein sources to help rebuild your muscles. Think of things like:
- Wild seafood
- Organic meats
These are really going to be the endurance training fuel that you need to go the distance. Include things like:
You have things like:
- Cold-pressed oils
If you can make those 4 areas the bulk of your diet and what makes up your daily plate, you’ll be a healthy and happy runner.
Now we’re going to talk about the proper clothing and the proper gear as you prepare for the coming race.
The first and most important thing is STAY AWAY FRO COTTON fabrics. Opt for something that breathes like polyester or nylon. These technical fabrics breathe well, they’re moisture-wicking and they allow your skin to kind of air out. When you wear cotton and you sweat, it doesn’t dry out and it can cause chafing. Chafing is one of the most uncomfortable things ever. Even though you are wearing polyester or nylon, chafing is still a possibility and it’s actually a possibility for women, too.
The sports bra
Some things that women need to think about is the bra line around the shoulder and the neckline. So make sure that when you’re moving, your arms feel good and your bra does not feel too restricting or too tight.
Make sure your bra is supportive enough to keep everything in nice and tight and everything’s not bouncing around. When it comes to running, try to look for the crisscross straps or the racerback because that will give you the most support.
If you are a little bigger-chested, look for something that has adjustable straps in the back so that way you can loosen it up or tighten it depending on how it feels that day. Also, some adjustable straps could be necessary for you as well. Go to an expert and find a good bra that works for you, try it out, see if it feels good before you actually use it on race day.
You have to be aware of the nipple area so you might have to put on some waterproof band-aids in order to make sure there’s no chafing going on. Vaseline is always a great option and you can rub some in those areas where you think some extra rubbing might occur.
The other thing to think about is the fit of your clothing. You have to ask yourself, how is the waistline? Is it moving well enough or is it a bit tight and restricting?
Wear what you train in
Make sure when you’re running that your shorts are not falling down because it’s very annoying if you have to pull up your pants, pull up your leggings, or pull down your shirt. So, make sure that whatever you’re wearing on race day is exactly what you wear while you’re training. That is KEY.
I made that mistake once. I’m pretty sure it was my first race ever and I bought a hydration belt literally the night before the race. I thought I had to have it and have my water bottles in the back, but I hated it. I ended up running my race holding the hydration belt in my hand because I couldn’t stand it. It was riding up and it was very uncomfortable.
And of course, I made a second mistake …
My second race ever, I wore shorts that I had never ever worn before. I was doing the race and one of my shorts legs was a little tight and it came up a little bit higher creating tons of chafing. When I crossed the finish line and I looked down, my leg was just bleeding from so much chafing.
So no matter what …
You have to make sure that all of your training gear on race day is exactly what you use during your training runs. I’m talking everything, from your head to toe.
As far as extra little accessories go, two of the most important to me are the Runtastic orbit and the Runtastic armband. I like the orbit because it acts as a second screen for my Runtastic app and I can look down to see my pace or my time and how long I’ve been running, just to get a good idea in case there’s no mile or kilometer markers.
The armband is perfect because it keeps my phone safe and secure. I’m a music guy so I have to be listening to music while I’m running, and it’s a cool way to just slip my headphones in, put on my favorite tunes and go for a run.
The last thing I want to mention is just keep in mind what season you’re running in or even what the weather might be like on race day and practice in that gear as well.
So if you know it’s going to be a nice sunny day on your race day, you need to think about a visor, a hat or sunglasses that have the nose grips that don’t slip.
When it comes to the wintertime, you want to make sure that you have warm enough gear. Think of a running glove, a jacket, or a headband that covers your ears.
A little trick that I’ve done before when running in the winter time is to find some old warm socks and you can put them on your hands as mittens as you start the race, and when you don’t need them anymore you can just take them off and toss them in the trash can.
Take care of your feet and they’re going to take care of you. It sounds pretty obvious but you’d be surprised how many people train and race in the wrong pair of shoes. Take the time, do the research and spend the money. You’ll be doing yourself a favor in the long run and you’ll reduce your chance of injury. Whilst running, the impact generated is 3 times your body weight per shoe and that’s why it’s key to get the right one.
Do you have a neutral, over-pronated or supinated gait? What’s the right shoes size for you? How much cushioning do you need through the midsole? How much space do your toes need to splay?
Just make sure you answer these questions and you’ve got a long way to make your running experience more pleasurable from the ground up.
Stay away from cotton. You need something that works with your body. You need to get technical with a performance fabric that’s going to wick away sweat and keep you cool.
Tracking your training and monitoring your performance is paramount. Performance trackers are an essential tool in your training arsenal. They come in all shapes and sizes and they’re made by everyone from Fitbit to Microsoft, Garmin to Suunto.
A performance tracker is a sensational motivational tool to help you structure and execute your sessions so you can get the best results. Using the speed, distance and time functions, you know exactly how far and how fast you’re moving.
Always keep in mind, when am I running, where am I running, what type of gear, shoes, socks do I want to wear?
If you choose to retain only one thing from this section, just make sure that you train in the same gear that you’re going to perform on race day. This way you should feel absolutely amazing.
Race Day Tips and Logistics
Getting to the race. You should know the course before you arrive. Usually, the race organizers send something in your email about a week or two letting you know all the details of everything going on that day. But you need to know:
- Is it a point-to-point race where you’re starting in one area and finishing at another?
- Is it starting somewhere super secluded where parking isn’t nearby but they have you bussed to the very start line?
- Is there a situation where you won’t be able to arrive before a certain time?
You need to know all these things before you get there. So get into the race allotting plenty of time so that you’re not rushing to that start line.
Make sure you have your bib. A lot of times you can pick that up a week before at various locations near the start or you can just pick it up in the race morning. Just make sure you know when and where you’re getting that.
I recommend getting near the start line between 45 minutes to an hour prior to the race starting. That gives you plenty of time for all of your pre-race preparation. You want this to be your race day, you’ve put so much preparation in and you don’t want get it all thrown away at the end right before you start.
You need to know where the restrooms are. These lines are super long a lot of the time but they do move quickly, so don’t be overwhelmed by that fact. Before a long run, every single person is probably getting in that line at some point or another, so be aware of that. Just roll with the punches, you’ve gotten there with plenty of time so nothing to worry about there.
Know where the actual start line and the corral are. If it’s a bigger race, a lot of times when they set you up in waves you’ll actually be lining up in a separate section several minutes before you’re actually going across that start line. So be aware of where that is and start to look for people with the same letter and number on their bib as you.
Find a good area where you can warm-up and prepare. Find a good area where you can warm-up and kind of clear your head. A lot of runners are going to be scattered around, so finding a good space to kind of seclude yourself for a warm-up is always a good idea.
Make sure you know where the drop bag station is. A lot of time if it’s a point-to-point race you’re going to be finishing at a different area and you’re going to be covered in sweat. As soon as you start to cool down you’re going to be freezing. So make sure you put something there at the end to put on or change in to afterwards especially if you don’t have someone meeting you right there at the end.
So go through logistics and double check everything is fine especially if it’s your first race. Everybody has their first race, so don’t be panicked and plan as best as you can and you should have an awesome 5K.
Sleep. Focus on getting good quality sleep the week leading up and try to get the best night’s sleep possible because you don’t want to go into the race feeling tired and just like kind of dragging.
Don’t go to the race on a full stomach because then you can wake up with bloating and indigestion and just have an upset stomach. You do not want this to happen on race day morning.
Eat. Your most important meal is 3 hours before the race. Make sure you get a good source of carbohydrates with a little bit of protein and fat. My favorite pre-race meal is bowl of oatmeal with a handful of walnuts and a spoonful of peanut butter. That should carry you through the race.
Lay out everything that you need the night before: running clothes, sneakers, socks, belt, watch, goose, hat, bib … When you wake up in the morning you’re going to be groggy and you’re also going to be nervous. So, make sure everything you need is laid out so you can decrease that margin of error.
Don’t overdress, i.e. don’t wear too many layers. What a lot of runners actually do especially if it’s going to be chilly in the morning is they wear an old long sleeve T-shirt they don’t really care about and just literally toss it into the trash can.
Eliminate. Make sure you eliminate or poop before the beginning of the race. Most runners will say a cup of coffee will aid in this elimination.
Don’t get caught up in the moment and then run your first mile way too fast. This is very important because you’re going to be nervous and you’re going to have all this anxious energy, and when you’re standing in line at the start, the air is literally electric because all those people around have their nervous energy as well. When you finally cross that start line, you are going to be so filled with adrenaline that it’s going to be so easy to go well above your normal pace. If you’ve been doing your training running 10 and 10-minute miles all the time and you run by that first mile and your watch says you ran a 7.50 mile, you are going to pay dearly for that.
Force yourself to go slow because even going like 15 to 20 seconds over your comfortable race pace can burn through your stores really quickly and you’re going to feel that way later on the race. I can tell you, you would much rather finish strong and fast than go out and run too fast that first mile.
Don’t do anything different on race day which you haven’t done in training, i.e. don’t wear new shoes, don’t wear new kit because it could rub and be very painful.
Don’t experiment with any drinks you haven’t tried. Make sure you’ve tried one of the sports drinks that the sponsoring organization is providing. If not, try to bring your own.
Believe in yourself and be positive. You’ve made it this far and you’ve gotten through your training, you are prepared for this race and you are ready for it. Trust me, the actual training itself is typically more difficult than the race even though the race is your longest distance.
When you run in the race, you have so much adrenaline, there are people cheering you on, there are people around you running, there’s just a sense of camaraderie and support and it’s just so motivating. This makes it actually a lot easier to run the race because you have all of that support and because you don’t have to try hard to keep your mind occupied.
Live in the moment, live in the step, enjoy the journey and be relentless.
If you’ve made this this far reading this article, you’ve read exactly 1000 words. This means you’re passionate enough about running the best 5K ever.
I would love it if you could share your views on the article and provide any useful tips or techniques I haven’t covered.
Have you ever run a 5k? If so, tell us how you trained, what difficulties you had had and any race day tips you think useful.