The weather is starting to warm up across the country and more and more Canadians are lacing up their shoes and heading out for a run. Whether you’re just getting back into it after taking some time off over the winter, or you’re gearing up for the spring racing season, keep these tips in mind to stay healthy all season long.
Increase volume gradually
This is especially true if you’re getting back into running after a layoff. Most experts recommend increasing your weekly mileage by no more than 10 per cent per week, which means if you ran 5K, three times last week for a total of 15K, this week you’ll run no more than 17 km in total. There are some runners who will be able to increase their volume faster than this, but in most cases, you’re better off erring on the side of caution.
Pay attention to running form
If you’re not already doing form drills before your runs to improve your running technique, now is a great time to start. Even better, if you’re able to, go see a physiotherapist or other sports practitioner who specializes in running to get a gate analysis. This way, they’ll be able to see what you’re doing well and what you need to work on, and will give you exercises and drills to specifically target your areas of weakness.
Most runners need at least one rest day per week. Whether you think you need it or not, plan to take a day off from all activities (running, strength training or cross-training) every seven to 10 days to give your body a complete break from high-intensity training. Even just one day off can go a long way in preventing overtraining, burnout and injuries.
Know when to back off
It’s important for runners to be able to distinguish between good pain and bad pain, or harmless discomfort and something more serious. As a general rule, if something starts to bother you and it persists for three days, you should take a day or two off from running, then reevaluate. If something starts to hurt and gets worse as you run, that’s another sign that you need to stop and have it looked at by a professional.
As much as it can be hard to miss a day or two of training, it’s far better to miss a couple of days now, rather than ignore it and end up being sidelined for a few weeks later.
And eat enough. Good nutrition is a crucial component of injury prevention, and that means eating plenty of healthy, high-quality foods like whole grains, fruits and veggies, healthy fats and plenty of protein. Your body can’t recover properly from your runs and workouts without adequate calories and nutrients, so do your best to refuel your workouts to avoid injuries.