With the running season upon us, it is time to prepare your body for an increase in activity and exposure to the elements. Running outdoors presents more variables than running indoors but with a little forethought you can get your outdoor stride back in no time. Here are 5 easy steps towards starting an outdoor running program:
1. Get a Running Analysis
A gait analysis looks at your biomechanics. In short, it answers the question: What are you doing when you run? The fact is, at least half of all runners will experience some form of injury during the course of one year of running. Most of these injuries are related to poor biomechanics. A gait analysis can help diagnose and correct strength deficits, postural imbalances and biomechanical faults to limit the chance of injury. Weak or inflexible muscles, if stressed by a lot of running, can result in injury over time. Even the simplest of movements, take for instance an excessive arm swing, can make a difference in the performance of a competitive runner.
2. Buy Running Apparel
If you have logged 300 to 500 miles over the winter, you will want a new pair of running shoes. Some experts even recommend having two good pairs and alternating your runs in each. Having a gait analysis done by a sports medicine doctor or physical therapist can aid you in getting the best shoe for your foot. Also, buy a few good pairs of socks. The right sock will prevent chaffing and blisters. Anatomical socks that are snug, and provide some cushioning and good ventilation are best.
Consider investing in technical apparel. Technical apparel wears like a second skin. Many people find it quite comfortable because it is lightweight and has the ability to move with you. Synthetic or technical fabrics are ideal for regulating body temperature because of their superior wicking properties.
3. Adopt a Thorough Stretching Program
You can reduce pain and injury through proper stretching and strength training. Muscle dysfunction is a regular occurrence amongst runners. Iliotibial Band Syndrome or ITB Syndrome is an injury that runners know all to well. It’s caused by the overuse of the iliotibial band, a muscle that runs along the outside of thigh. The use of a foam roller can be highly effective in alleviating ITB Syndrome. Self-myofascial release is an excellent way to release the iliotibial band and other tight muscles.
It is also important to strengthen the muscles alongside the knee. Doing so will help restore the correct muscle mechanics when you run. Incorporate these stretches in your program to reduce pain and prevent overuse injuries: side leg raises, heel walking and big toe raisers, half squats on a downward slope, calf drops and arch raises.
4. Follow a Simple Running Program
Don’t try to do too much too soon. Ease into your runs with a program of 3 days per week, gradually increasing your mileage each day. Following a consistent program will reduce your risk of injury by allowing sufficient rest time, and it should be easier to work into your busy schedule.
5. Cross Train
Resistance training improves your running economy. Even balancing your runs with walking can reduce the load on the body while improving your endurance. Also, incorporate restorative exercises like Pilates and yoga. Running may cause imbalances in the body. A Pilates and/or yoga program will help to balance strength, increase range of motion, and improve core strength. You don’t want to be sidelined by injuries that could easily have been prevented.
These tips should help you find your outdoor stride, stay healthy, and enjoy a great running season.