By now, you’ve probably cleaned out the cupboards, shampooed the rugs and painted the walls. With stay-at-home orders in place and few places to go, more people are turning to an exercise that’s right out their door: running.
“I’ve seen more folks out running than any other time before,” said Dave Grinnell, a physical therapist and board-certified clinical specialist in orthopedics at UCHealth SportsMed Clinic – Steamboat Springs, who is also an avid runner. “It’s affordable, you can do it right from your own house, and you can progress at your own pace.”
Preventing injuries when you start running is important. Check out Grinnell’s tips below for embracing running — while keeping your body safe.
What to know before you start running:
Respect the body’s load
When running, your body takes the impact of two to three times your weight with each step forward.
“Your body is having to take on incredible forces,” Grinnell said. “A 150-pound runner can experience about 375 pounds of load with every single stride.”
Any issues — from previous injuries to a lack of flexibility — can spell trouble. Tight hips can cause too much pressure on the knees, while an old ankle injury can cause pain in your knees and hips.
A physical therapist can help analyze your gait and determine where you have weaknesses or issues.
“We can break the body down joint by joint and show how one little thing with shoulder mechanics, as arbitrary as it may seem, can affect the rest of body when running,” Grinnell said. “Then, we can help you get more mechanically efficient or less injury-prone through small changes, such as driving the elbow further back a little.”
Break when pain strikes
If something starts to hurt, take a break. Otherwise, you can quickly make a small injury worse.
And start any new running routine slowly.
“Tissue tolerance will build with time,” Grinnell said. “Go in small increments. If you can run for 15 minutes, add a couple more minutes the next week. Don’t jump the gun from running minimally to running 10 miles.”
Gear up well
Choose quality shoes that work for your style and distance of running. While various types of shoes have come in and out of popularity — from minimalist shoes to super-padded shoes — a shoe isn’t a silver bullet to preventing or treating issues.
“Choose a shoe that’s comfortable,” Grinnell said. “Watch out for asymmetrical wear patterns. If one heel or side wears differently than the other, it’s probably time to reevaluate the shoes you have and try a new pair.”
Before you hit the trail, take a few minutes to bring your heart rate up by skipping or doing butt kicks — anything to prime your body for increased activity. And don’t forget to cool down at the end of your run by walking to lower your heart rate.
Stretching isn’t bad — but it isn’t always necessary.
“With static stretching, research is showing there may not be much benefit from it,” Grinnell said. “But if it feels good to do it, then by all means, stretch.”
Use the butt muscles
Many runners are more quad-dominant, which means their quadriceps muscles take on the brunt of their running workout. But the muscles that should be most active when running are your glutes — aka, the butt muscles.
“The quads extend the knee and are more fast-twitch fibers,” Grinnell said. “The butt or gluteal muscles maintain posture and help propel you forward. Those are slower twitch fibers, so can keep you going longer and keep you upright, too.”
If you find yourself leaning forward when you’re running, your glutes are probably tired out.
To build strength, try squats — especially single leg squats — as well as bridges. Core work is important, so don’t skip out on planks and side planks.
Also important: have fun.
“Running is a huge stress reliever,” Grinnell said. “A lot of us are going stir-crazy, so it’s a good way to let off some steam while also getting a good cardiovascular workout.”
This article first appeared in the Steamboat Pilot & Today on May 4, 2020.