Running is a great way to get some fresh air and exercise, as long as you still maintain social distancing! Although running is a great method of exercise, it is also very repetitive in nature, and can lead to injuries. The best recommendation I can give you is to progress your distance/mileage by no more than 10% per week, this will help reduce your risk of injuries as your muscles will be better able to adapt.
There are many exercises that can be done to help you stay injury free while running, I am going to share just a short list of my favorites for you. If you would like more information about running injuries or exercises please email me at claringtonp[email protected] and I would be more than happy to chat with you.
*Disclaimer, we recommend that you complete these exercises under the advice of your doctor or physiotherapist. Please do not attempt any of the below exercises if you have any pain or injuries, and seek medical help if needed.
Before you start your run, Dynamic Stretches help your body warm up by increasing your heart rate, and increasing your legs range of motion. Dynamic Stretches are done by quickly repeating the action for 45 seconds.
· High Knees – Alternate quickly bringing your thighs to hip level.
· Bum Kicks – Alternate quickly trying to kick your buttocks with your heels.
· Toe Touches – While keeping your back straight, and hinging at the hips, try and touch the top of your toes. Alternating and moving as quickly as able while still keeping good form.
· Hip External Rotation – Alternate bringing your thighs to hip level, and then opening up your hip as much as able.
After you finish your run you should complete Static Stretches. These sustained stretches help your body cool down and return your muscles to their pre-exercise length to help prevent stiffness and injury. Static Stretches are done by holding a stretch for 30 seconds (minimum) to 60 seconds (ideally). It is important to feel just a light stretch in the muscles, and to not stretch to the point of pain. If you are getting pain with stretching you may be pulling your muscle past it’s limit and injuring it.
· Hamstring Stretch – Keeping your back straight, while hinging at the hips try and reach your fingers towards your toes. You should feel a light stretch in the back of your thigh or knee.
· Calf – Gastrocnemius – Keeping your back leg straight, heel on the ground, and lunge forward. You should feel a light stretch in the back of your lower leg.
· Calf – Soleus – Keeping your back leg slightly bent, heel on the ground, and lunge forward. You should feel a light stretch towards your Achilles Tendon.
· Iliotibial Band, and Tensor Fascia Latae – Cross 1 leg behind the other, lean forward reaching towards the toes of your behind leg. You should feel a light stretch on the outside of the hip crossing behind.
· Quad Stretch – Standing with support, grab the foot of your bent knee, and try to pull it towards your buttocks. Try to keep your bent thigh in line with the standing thigh. You should be able to feel a stretch in the front of your thigh.
Having strong and stable muscles helps reduce injuries on your joints to help keep you running. I would recommend completing a strength program every other day, completing 3 sets of 10 of each of the following exercises. The goal is for your muscles to start to feel tired and heavy during the 3rd set of the exercise. If the exercises are starting to get easier then you should gradually increase your reps by adding 1 or 2 more per set.
· Heel Raises – Standing with support, raise up onto your toes, and slowly come back down to the ground. This exercise helps increase the strength of your calf muscles, and reduces the strain through your Achilles Tendon.
· Gluteus Medius Clam Shells – Lying on your side, bend your hips/knees so that your hips are in line with your ankles. Keep your heels together, and lift the top knee upwards. Keep your hips stacked so that you are not rotating your trunk backwards. This exercise helps strengthen your Gluteus Medius (one of your buttocks muscles), which will help increase your hip stability and reduces hip and knee pain.
· Side Lying Leg Raises – Keep your bottom leg bent (for support), keep your top leg straight, and lift the top leg up towards the ceiling. Try and keep your top leg in line with your body, do not let it track forward (this engages your hip flexors making it easier!). This Exercise helps strengthen your hip abductors (the muscles on the outside of your thigh) which will help increase your hip stability and reduces your hip and knee pain.
· 1 Legged Stance – Standing in a safe environment try and stand on 1 foot for 60s. This exercise helps increase the stability in your hips, knees, and ankles.
I hope everyone is doing well during the quarantine and can get out for some exercises! Keep these exercises up to help reduce your injury risk when getting into running this Spring season. If you are looking for any more advice on how to start a running program, or if an injury is slowing you down and preventing you from starting a new healthy habit, give us a call at 905-240-9355, or send us an email at [email protected]. We are open for virtual visits to get you started on the runner’s path!
I hope everyone is staying happy and healthy!
Jackie Ryder, Registered Physiotherapist