David Hawken, Physiotherapist

“Run” might feel like a four-letter word to some people, or like a form of torture to others! Love it or hate it, humans have been running in one form or another for thousands of years. At one time it was essential for survival; hunting parties would try and track down their prey, or you might be the prey, and have to outrun whatever was chasing you! Nowadays it is much less common that we have to run, it is often more of a voluntary choice.

The modern-day runner might seem like a strange animal to a lot of people. Why would someone go through that torture? Aren’t they afraid of wearing out their knees? The truth is, the body is incredible at adapting. Given just the right amount of stress or loading, our muscles, tendons, ligaments, and yes, even our joints actually become more robust and healthy. The key is finding that sweet spot when it comes to stress or loading for the body. Too little, and not enough adaptation will take place. Too much, and you can expect to get injured.

The biggest risk factor for a running injury is simply increasing the training volume or intensity too quickly. The tricky part is that we all respond differently to training and stress. Some people who are new to running will have to progress their mileage and speed very gradually to avoid injury, and this may include sessions where they begin with a combination of running and walking, also known as interval training. It can take several weeks, or even a couple of months to get to the point where they are running continuously for thirty minutes or more.

The other important factor to consider for new runners is consistency. It is important to get at least 4 runs in per week, and even if you only have time to go out for 10 minutes, it still allows for some adaptation to take place. Again, this helps the body to properly adapt to the stress of running. As the body is gradually and consistently exposed to the demands of running, the body adapts and running becomes easier. Basically this means that you are much less likely to experience an overuse injury from running, and you are able to run further. It seems like a very simple concept, but so many of us get excited at the beginning of a new running program, and may over-do it. Just be patient, it is a gradual process!

One last thing that may seem to totally go against conventional wisdom has to do with stretching. Often new runners will think that before they can head out the door to go for their run, they have to hold prolonged stretches to warm up their muscles and prepare them for the workout. The truth is, the main goal of a warm-up is just that, to warm-up! A warm-up should increase the body temperature and get blood flowing into the key muscles groups. Holding a long stretch can actually make muscles function less efficiently, which can hurt your running performance. If you are just looking to go out for a simple, low-speed morning jog, the best way to warm up is to start with a few minutes of brisk walking, followed by a gradual increase in running speed until you get to the desired pace. That’s it!

Running can seem like an impossible sport to take on, but if it’s approached at just the right rate, giving the body a chance to adapt, it can actually be quite a simple process. You just have to be patient!

If you’re interested in starting a running program, or need some expert advice on how to help your body adapt to running without causing any injury, see a physiotherapist!
Kemptville Physiotherapy Centre 613-258-7661 / www.kemptvillephysio.com

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