No matter how long you’ve been running for, the basics will always remain the same. Due to the fact I am currently coming back from a serious injury, the basics are even more important than ever. If you are someone who doesn’t run often and you want to start from scratch, or you run a lot but tend to neglect the more technical necessities of running, here are some tips for you too!
POSTURE: Admittedly not everyone has the same beliefs when it comes to running form. I am a strong believer in if it works for you, follow it, but I too also believe there are some specific details in running technique that can contribute to making you a more efficient, fluid runner. Posture is always important. It is important to keep your body in a straight and strong position. If you are someone who tends to slouch, arch your back and bend in the middle, this is not the most conductive position when running. Holding an upright position allows you to say strong in the middle and drive forward. If your body is slouched, you will consequently make yourself heavy and drive yourself down into the ground, rather than out of it and forward. An upright posture allows you to project your body forward and hold you in a strong position as you drive forward.
STRENGTH: Strength work is essential to ensuring you have strong leg muscles and joints. Having strong ankles and knees is vital. If you are someone who’s knees tend to knock into each other when you run, or you find yourself going over on your ankles on occasion, you are probably neglecting the strength you require in such areas. Simple calf raises, squats, single leg lunges, etc. can help resolve these problems. In addition, weak ankles are frequently the cause of knee discomfort in runners. Don’t quote this, but I only speak from previous experience. You may think in order to be a good runner you just need to run a lot. This is partly the case, but there is no point running on weak legs. If you lack this strength in mobility you will only put yourself at a greater risk or injury and lack improvement in your performance. Strong ankles are also vital for running cross country!!!!
WARMING UP/ COOLING DOWN: Not only is this something neglected by people who only run on occasion, but this is also neglected by a lot of serious runners when it comes to the easy miles. Ensuring your body is warmed up before a run is just as important as the run itself. If you are going into a run, your body needs time to adjust to what it is doing, just as a car needs to be turned on and warmed up before you can drive it. A few simple drills, such as kickbacks, lunges, and heel walks, allow your body to wake up and loosen itself before going for a run. In addition, starting your run at an easier pace until your legs have loosened up is essential. It is your body telling you it isn’t quite awake yet! There is no point forcing yourself past this, as again, you will only risk injury.
Just as important as warming up, cooling down is a key part of a run. After a session, you should perform a short jog first, but this is not vital after a regular run. A few simple stretches for about 10 minutes allows your muscles to stretch back out after they have been contracting and set your body on the path to recovery, ready to allow you to run again when you next plan to do so. It doesn’t take long, so don’t neglect this phase! If you are lost for stretches to do, the site below is very helpful.
REST: I am a strong believer in the power of rest, having seen the benefits of it first hand on multiple occasions. Ok, I am not a good one for resting all day, even on a day off, but it is important to give your body a day of rest from running. If you decide to go for a gentle swim that is ok, but if you train a lot and do not have regular days of rest, then it is probably sensible to do no exercise on your day of rest. A good way of looking at rest days is as ‘adaptation days’. Adaptation days are essential to your body recovering, repairing, and building. In order to allow your muscles to grow you need to let them rest and repair. If you are constantly breaking away at your muscles by exercising, this growth will not occur, and you may inhibit your progression. This is something I had to learn quickly having an injury, and this is where rest really is the best thing!
EAT ENOUGH!: This is one of the most important things about being a runner. If you do not eat enough, once again your body does not have the energy to recover and repair itself, and you will become at higher risk of developing an injury. In addition, you need to have enough energy to power through your runs. There is nothing worse than being in the middle of a run and suddenly, you have no energy. The rest of the run becomes a massive struggle and in turn you lose any benefit the run may have given you. Running is not a destructive sport, eat wisely and enough and you will power forward. Giving your body some sort of protein after a tougher run is essential, as it helps speed up your recovery process and once again prepares you for your next run. If you are interested in more around food, I will be doing a blog post specific to this topic soon!
TRAINERS: last but not least is trainers. Having the right pair of trainers for your feet is essential. So many runners run into trouble (pardon the pun!) because they do not have the right trainers for their feet. This can lead to issues such as shin splints, collapsed arch’s, knee problems and many more. A decent pair of trainers may seem expensive at first, but the investment is definitely worth it. You will be spending a lot of time in them (I hope), therefore it is worthwhile to invest in a decent pair of shoes. Get yourself to a local running shop with a running machine so you can test the shoes out before you buy them and have a gait analysis. This will definitely help you in your future running journey. Once you have found the right pair you can stay with them forever. I have been wearing the same make and model of trainer for my regular runs since I was 9 years old, and I have never had any problems with them. I have of course had recent analysis to ensure these are still the right shoes for me.
I hope these ‘back to basics’ tips have helped those who are new to running as well as thoughts who are regular runners. Let me know if you have any comments/questions.
I love to run and I love to write, so I write about running!