Shoes It is really important the shoes you use for your running are comfortable and the right size. Many people buy shoes a size too small. A training shoe should not restrict the foot from moving, toes should be able to stretch out. The mechanics of the foot asks for the feet to move freely, this ensures the rest of the muscles in the feet and toes and on to the legs, hips and back can do their correct thing – it really is a domino effect. The more free muscles can flow, the better the movement and therefore the less risk of injury. Muscles that flow (move freely) are also far more flexible which once again means less risk of injury. Please remember, running involves the whole body not just the legs and feet.
Posture is essential too! Good posture will carry us into, and through, old age far more comfortably. People with good posture have far less back problems which in itself is worth thinking about, bad backs can be and often are, debilitating.
Stride when running on rough terrain including mud, it is a good idea to shorten your stride. Run on the balls of your feet, keeping your steps short and light and knees soft, I call this the show pony run! Stand up tall (posture), keep your pelvis underneath your body (rather than bottom sticking out) and use your arms too! Not only are the arms a great way of helping propel you along, they are also attached to your torso so with every arm punch you do you are giving your core (abs) a great workout too. Running on tarmac is often disastrous for joints and tendons (not only of the knees but hips and back too) please bear this in mind if doing a lot of road running.
Stretching once again, essential. Yoga has become very popular and is a great way of stretching muscles but a yoga class is not the only way we can stretch, we can simply just stretch, at home in the office or out on a walk! Stretching should never be competitive, where one person can easily bend down to touch his or her toes, another may find it difficult. The trick to stretching is to do it often, gently and without competing – a muscle stretched too far can be extremely painful and also go on to cause a lifetime of problems please bear this in mind if trying to bend your body into positions it isn’t ready to do, or built for. There are a few simple yet very effective stretches we can do on a daily basis to lengthen and strengthen muscles joints and tendons too. Only stretch when your muscles are fully warmed up.
Balance use it or lose it! As we age balance starts ageing too. However, if we practice our balance with a few simply daily balances it will look after us into old age. A simple way of practicing balance work is to stand on one leg, when you have mastered standing on that leg without falling then try closing your eyes. This really puts balance to test as the brain is completely out of its comfort zone standing just on one leg without the use of your eyes! This is your proprioception (sometimes known as the sixth sense) if you want the snazzy word for it – its is the sense that lets us perceive the location, movement, and action of parts of the body. A simple and highly effective way of putting balance to the test and keeping flexibility is to ‘pop your socks on while standing up’!
Squats! A few squats on every run will stand you on good ground with regards to building leg strength and helping further with flexibility.
Posture, stretching and balance are certainly not just for running, you should get into the habit of putting these tools into your everyday life.
And last but absolutely by no means least, enjoy your running! If you have given running a good try but still find it uncomfortable or unenjoyable then look for something else to do. Running is not for everyone, there are so many effective and fun activities out there which will give the exact same positive results. Results come with enjoyment, they will not come from dread and lack of enjoyment.