Fair Weather Running: Tips to Avoid Pain and Injury

If you’re like me, and the thought of spring weather coming around the corner gets you itching to grab your headphones and lace up your running shoes!

Unlike some of the brave souls I see running around Saskatoon all winter, I spend the colder months finding other ways to be active (HIIT workouts, Pilates, weights, etc.). That means that when I do hit the road, trail or track again in the spring and summer, I need to be a little more strategic about how I load my body and get back into running form.

In the sections that follow I will go over some suggestions for how/when to run as well as some other strategies to keep your body feeling and moving great. Keep in mind that this blog does replace medical advice, if you have any pain or specific areas of concern please consult with a healthcare professional.

Dosage

Dosage is a fancy word for when, how and how much we train. Your personal dosage will depend on your fitness level and familiarity with running but I will list some basic guidelines for amateur, fair-weather runners like me.

  • Start with 2-3 runs per week and make sure that they do not fall on back-to-back days. Give your muscles and joints lots of recovery time to adjust to this new stress.
  • Aim for around 30 minutes of exercise. If you are new to running and find yourself getting fatigued or short of breath, try alternating between 1 minute of walking and 1 minute of running. As your endurance improves you can progress to 1 minute walking and 2 minutes running, 1 minute of walking and 3 minutes of running, and so on.
  • As your endurance improves you may want to vary your runs so you can also improve your speed. Try using 1 run a week a improve endurance by increasing your total running time, and 1 run a week to increase your speed by running a comfortable distance in less time than your personal best (there are many apps available on smart phones or watches to help you track your pace and distance).

Cross-training

Cross-training is any activity you do when you are not running. You may want to skip this step but KEEP READING, cross-training is essential to prevent injury. As I mentioned before, you should be aiming for 2-3 runs per week with rest days in between. So, you may be asking yourself what you should do on the other 4-5 days a week, and the answer is cross-training!!

  • Try to perform 1-2 days of lower extremity (leg) strengthening each week. Some important areas for running are your hips, quads, hamstrings and calves. Some basic exercises that are great for strengthening these areas are lunges, squats, clamshells, bridges and calf raises. Start with just your body weight and add some resistance with dumbbells or tubing as tolerated. Remember to stop exercises and contact a health professional if you have a pain.
  • Stretching is another very important component. Try stretching for 10-15 minutes after each run, as well as dedicating 1-2 of your days off running to a more intensive stretching regime or yoga practice. Some of the muscle groups that commonly get tight with running are the calves, quads, hamstrings, hip flexors and glutes. Remember that stretches should be held for 20-30 seconds.

I hope this gives you some guidance and confidence to get out and move your body this spring. If you need some extra support, all of the therapists at Lead would be happy to ease your aches and pains and make a tailored running and strengthening program to help you feel your best.
Happy Trails!

– Samantha Dieno BEXSc, MPT