Running is one of the latest fitness crazes that is sweeping the nation. Every weekend there are races of different distances from the 5K to the full marathon. And for good reason, running is one of the most effective ways of maintaining and improving cardiovascular fitness, especially as we age. It is quite simple to find a simple beginner’s training program that will help you move from a sedentary lifestyle to running your first 5K. And for those who have been running for awhile, the full marathon is a challenge well accepted. But as a runner, it is very important to protect your body from injury and to run safely. Before beginning any running regimen, always get clearance from your physician. Here are a few tips for adult runners.
Increase Intensity and Time Slowly
There are a few people who get up and decide to run a mile. Once they tackle that feat, it feels so good the next day they attempt two and then three the next. This is an injury just waiting to happen. It is very important, no matter how good your body feels, that you increase intensity and the length of running sessions slowly over time. You may start out with a slow paced run/walk plan which slowly increases the amount of time spent running while decreasing the time you walk. This is typically a very safe type of program to follow. Increasing time or intensity too quickly can cause serious injuries. Building up slowly gives time for the muscles and joints to adjust and build strength and endurance. Even for those who have been running for awhile and want to train for a longer distance, it is imperative to increase weekly mileage slowly. The general rule of thumb is to increase weekly mileage by no more than 10 percent each week to help avoid runner’s injuries.
Rest and Recovery
Yes, there really is such a thing as the “runner’s high.” Many runners enjoy it so much that they forget to allow the body to rest properly. It is very important that the body have some time off from running, especially after a hard training run. Running goals can be met by running only 3 days a week, but the average runner will typically run 4 days per week. But even the most experienced and elite runners will tell you how important rest days are. Muscles need time to rebuild before the next run. In most cases it is best if you can use “rest” days for cross training. Incorporating strength training or bicycling into your rest days can be very beneficial and improve your running.
Listen to Your Body
Many runners think it is okay to run through the pain. No pain, no gain, right? This is not usually true. There are times when some minor aches and pains can diminish as you continue your run. But it is best to listen to your body. Any pain that causes you to alter your gait or gets worse the further you run means you need to stop. Many injuries occur because of increasing mileage too fast. Simply reducing your weekly mileage for a period of time may be enough to help your body recover. You may need to take more days to recover each week. For pain that does not go away it is always best to seek out a medical professional. Older adults need to pay even more attention to joint pain.
Cross training is an essential part of being a good runner. It offers a much needed break for the muscles used in running and can help increase running abilities. For most people, it is not advisable to run 7 days a week. Find activities such as weight training, bicycling, hiking or swimming that can be enjoyed on the off days. These will help keep your stamina and strength up in between runs.