With the New York marathon taking place this week – November 6th – we decided it was the perfect time to talk about everything that is great about running…and everything that you need to watch out for!
Why Running is good for you.
As exercise goes, running is some of the best. First and foremost, it is a truly fantastic way to get fit – not only does it burn calories, but it carries on burning them after you have stopped running – but it is also great for your overall health. It improves bone mass, increasing knee health and decreasing your risk of developing osteoarthritis, it boosts your hearing (some research suggests) by increasing blood flow to your ears, and it can even diminish your risk of cancer. Studies have shown that people who run for 30 minutes a day could reduce their risk of dying prematurely from cancer by up to 50%!
Outside of physical health, studies have also shown that regular exercise, and especially running, can help with attention, concentration and organizing as well as boosting learning and memory. Running can also make you happier, through the release of “feel-good hormones” called endocannabinoids and by purging the blood of a substance called kynurenine, which builds up over times of stress and can be linked to depression. Some studies have shown that even 30 minutes of walking on a treadmill can lift the mood of someone suffering severe depression, as well as boosting sleep quality.
Common Running Injuries
Evolutionarily speaking, we humans have always been good runners, due to the natural necessity to chase prey and avoid predators, so why does it cause so many injuries? As a high impact form of exercise, most running-related injuries result from the pounding of knees and feet and going too far for too long or over rough ground.
Some of the most common running injuries include “runner’s knee” or patellofemoral pain syndrome, Achilles tendinitis, plantar fasciitis, shin splits, fractures, sprains, Iliotibial band syndrome and pulled muscles. Almost all of them come about through a combination of uneven running surfaces, overuse, overtraining, weak hips or incorrect footwear.
So, what can you do? Well, the benefits far outweigh the risks, so rather than give up, we suggest you keep calm and carry on running… while sticking to these few key tips.
How to Avoid Running Injuries.
1) ALWAYS warm up and cool down.
This is a must whatever exercise you are doing. Skipping it may save you time in the short term, but in the long term it will only mean you are out of play for longer while you recover.
2) Know your limits.
Again, this is important for all forms of exercise. Understanding your body’s capabilities will help you to walk the fine line between pushing yourself and staying safe. Once you have figured out how far and for how long you can run comfortably, stick to the 10% rule, never increasing your mileage by more than 10% a week.
If your technique is not right, it can make you vulnerable to a range of injuries, from shin splints to stress fractures. Study the right form, and perhaps consider consulting a trainer or physical therapist who can help you to identify any biomechanical issues you might have.
4) Choose your route wisely.
Running routes with uneven ground and a lot of hills put greater strain on your knees and ankles. If you must run up-hill or off-road, be sure to build up to it gradually, and vary this running with days where you run on a track which will be kinder to your body.
5) Strength Training.
As I mentioned before, weak hips can be a leading cause of running injury so it is important to strengthen them, as well as the other muscles in your legs, to help the bones, ligaments and tendons withstand the high impact. Add lifting and strength training into your exercise regime and you will be amazed at the difference it can make.