As the weather gets warmer, people of all ages are looking for ways to get outdoors and stay active. The positive health effects of running have been well documented throughout the years. A regular running routine has been shown to improve lung function, reduce risk for cardiac disease, manage body weight, and boost your immune system. The benefits are not limited solely to physical factors, as research has shown improvements associated with mood and self-confidence as well as a decrease in stress levels.
If you are just beginning to run as a mode of exercise, one of the most important things to remember is to start with a steady progression. One of the pitfalls of new runners is feeling the need to do too much too soon. You wouldn't start your first weight lifting class by trying to bench press twice your body weight would you? Running is no different and should be treated the same way. It may be best to begin your routine with a walk/jog program in order to reduce the initial stress placed on your body. Begin with walking at a comfortable pace for several minutes. Then increase your speed to a light jog for several minutes and return to your initial pace. Continue this pattern for the remainder of your workout and over time, gradually spend a greater percentage of the time jogging.
Although this is an area of some controversy, health care professionals generally support some form of warm-up and cool-down when engaging in any strenuous cardiovascular activity. Doing so can greatly reduce your risk of injury. Common injuries to runners include: Patellofemoral pain syndrome or "runner's knee", plantar fasciitis, IT band syndrome, shin splints, and achilles tendonitis. The link below to Runnersworld.com is an excellent place to start to develop an understanding of the characteristics and risk factors associated with each injury. It should be noted that often times these injuries can clear up with rest and a stretching/strengthening program targeted at specific muscle groups. Expensive braces and compression socks are not always the first line of defense.
As with all exercise and sport activity, good technique is crucial. Running exposes your body to a variety of stresses and forces so it's imperative that these are distributed through the body properly. Popular buzzwords such as "overpronation" are commonly told to runner's as a reason for current or potential mechanical issues but often times the source can be coming from somewhere else in the body. Physical therapists are skilled in recognizing gait deficits and dysfunction and therefore can be an effective resource in helping both novice and experienced runners prevent and treat running injuries. If you have been sidelined by a nagging running injury, consider scheduling an initial evaluation with us. We will work alongside you to develop an individualized and effective rehabilitation program.
Gregory Chrest PT, DPT – Clinic Director – Reisterstown