I used to be a runner. About three years ago I ran three to four times a week. I used to love running. However, this changed rapidly with my first injury. And I would never have thought at that time that this wasn’t going to be my last one. Several others followed – knee problem, back pain, shin splints, Achilles tendon lesion, heel spur and so on. It was just a never ending story. This odyssey of injuries took every single joy I had for sports. After a break, I slowly approached some other sports. Half year of demanding spinning classes followed, after a year of swimming and then finally I ended up in the gym with weight training. I never thought that I would enjoy lifting weights in a closed room where the only stream of fresh air comes through the open windows. Now, after a year and half of weight training, I started to miss my former endurance sport – running.
Exactly three weeks ago I gave running a second chance.
But there are some things you have to keep in mind when you start running again:
1. Make Sure You Build Up Your Muscles
Before you lace your running shoes and start your first miles enthusiastically ask yourself how fit are you really? Answer this question honestly.
- Have you been doing some other sports?
- If yes, then you are probably more prepared for your first run
- If not, go for a longer walk about 50 minutes. If you don’t face any problems you can alternate your first run with a few minutes of slow jogging and walking
- Have you been active on a regular basis during your running break?
- If yes, then it will be less of a challenge for you
- If not, start slowly and watch out for a regular breath
- Have you done endurance training like cycling or swimming?
- If yes, then try to build up your muscle. Many runners forget to strengthen other parts of their bodies.
- If not, start strengthening your body with some yoga or pilates lesson if you’re not into lifting weights
- Have you only been doing some weight training but no endurance?
- If yes, take it easy on your first run. Your lungs won’t be well prepared for a fast run.
- If not, try to build up some muscle and most important strengthen your core.
You may ask yourself why a runner should strengthen his arms, his back or his core in general. Short answer: Just do it, I know from experience…
A longer answer would be: Running, although you run with your legs and on your feet, involves every single muscle in your body. Try running with no upper body tension… That’s kind of difficult when your arms wobble around. Running with your arms means for me that you actively use your arms to support your running. Having a nice and powerful arm movement helps a lot with speeding up your run and making it way more effectively. Another body part which amateur runners often forget about is the torso or also called core. It’s so important to strengthen your back and your abdominal muscles because they support your entire upper body and having a strong core is the best way to prevent back pain.
2. Have A Look At Your Feet
I’m not talking about how pretty and neat your feet look, I mean more have a look how your foot positioning is. Do you have a skew foot, a flat foot or loose ligaments?
I always knew that I had a weak arch of foot and very loose ligaments around my ankle but seeing a photograph of my feet was, to be honest, quite shocking as I only then realised that I one foot was pronating a lot.
Ask someone to take a photograph of your feet and then compare it with the images above. If you suffer from shin or foot pain this could be the root of all evil. When you suspect a supination or over pronation try to get an appointment with your doctor or directly with an orthopaedic specialist. With orthopaedic insoles, you’re ready to go!
3. Know Your Body…Or Your Pain
You’re ready for your first run and after only one minute your ankle starts hurting and your left knee pinches. Should you stop immediately? Not necessarily. Pain is not always the kind where you run the risk of getting injured. As a former runner you probably already know which kind of pain is alarming and which not. For me, it was during running quite easy to differentiate between those two different signals.
So, it’s really important to listen to your own body and the reactions. However, if you are a sports newbie it’s probably difficult for you to see or feel the difference. Just keep in mind – don’t overdo it.
4. The Only 10 % Rule
I’m not a supporter of rules, to begin with. There’s also a rule to determine your maximum heart rate: 220 – age = maximum heart rate. This could serve as a rule of thumb but obviously, it’s not accurate. Something similar is that with a maximum heart rate of 200 your ideal pulse during training should be around 140. This may be true for some people, but not for me and maybe also not for you.
However, there’s one rule I really believe in – the 10 % rule.
According to it, you should increase your training only 10 % with each session. So for example, when you were able to run 5 kilometres in 30 minutes you either extend your next run with the same speed to 5.5 kilometres or you run the same distance in 27 minutes.
5. Don’t Forget To Rest
Probably the most important message for your running comeback is – don’t overdo it. Take your break after a long run. Your body needs time to adjust itself to the new challenge. Recovery and regeneration take some days. Ideal for me is going for a run once a week. If you want to increase your training just keep the 10 % rule in mind.
To all fellow runners out there – good luck and lots of fun for your next run!