Tips for new runners! From an Oakville Physio

Oakville Physio clinic showing shoe tying

With the warm weather in full swing in Oakville, we see many people starting to take up running for exercise or hobby. 

It’s easy to see the appeal of running.

Running does not require a lot of equipment and is therefore inexpensive. You can participate in running virtually anywhere. This minimizes the time it takes to drive to a gym or other sport facility.

The best part is that running has a wide range of health benefits!

Running is an aerobic exercise (utilizes oxygen). Because of this it improves the health and function of our hearts and lungs, minimizing risks of high blood pressure, heart attacks and other cardiovascular diseases. Its also a great way to “get in shape”. Not only does running burn calories, it also utilizes our full bodies, increasing strength and tone in key muscle groups such as our core, glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves. Running also has many benefits in improving mood and reducing stress as it releases serotonin, a neurotransmitter which contributes to happiness and overall well-being.

Runner to help massage therapist relax

Sounds great, right?

Just as with any physical activity, however, there are common injuries associated with running. Knee injuries can be common among runners.

“Runner’s Knee”

You may have heard of the term “runner’s knee” which refers to pain around the knee cap. This often occurs more if we have weakness / a lack of endurance  throughout the quads (front of the thigh muscles), glutes or hips.

Achilles Tendinitis / Tendinosis

Achilles tendinitis – inflammation around the tendon at the back of the heel – is another common injury. This often happens when we have tight and/or weak calves and if we increase training very quickly or suddenly.

Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is another injury we see often in runners. This usually manifests as a burning, nagging sensation through the bottom of the foot and often occurs with very low or very high arches.

Shin Splints

“Shin splints” or medial tibial stress syndrome is a common ailment we see especially in new runners, runners who have just started again after an extended period off, and runners who have dramatically increased their training. 

Is running starting to sound less appealing?

Compression socks for air travel from oakville Physio clinic

The good news is there are many ways you can be proactive to avoid these injuries. 

Make sure your overall health is suitable for running by checking with your physician before starting. 

  • Make sure your footwear is appropriate for running. If you are unsure, your Chiropodist (foot care specialist) or Physiotherapist are excellent resources.
  • Start slow! Don’t go straight from couch potato to marathon runner – there are a lot steps in between. Try brisk walking at first, slowly progress to alternating between walking and jogging, working your way up to just jogging and then eventually to running. This will allow your body to get used to the movements and develop some strength first. Starting with an intentional and realistic plan is ideal. You Physiotherapist can be an excellent resource for guidance in this. A running coach such as our friends at Lions Valley Athletics is also an option. If you don’t feel ready to run in a group, they can communicate remotely as you progress!
  • Establish appropriate warm up and cool down routines. Start your jogs/runs with a dynamic warm up routine. This will help improve blood circulation to your muscles before a strenuous routine and decrease your chances of injury. Dynamic warm up routines could include forward/backward leg swings, side to side leg swings, walking lunges, trunk rotations and jogging in place. A cool down stretching routine is also important to relieve some muscle tension after physical activity. Include hamstring stretches, calf stretches, quad stretches, hip flexor stretches, lower back stretches and piriformis stretches in your cool down routine.
  • Include a strength routine. Building strength and endurance in your core, hips and legs can help prevent injuries as you build distance. You might also be surprised how strength training positively affects your general performance!
  • Plan out where you’re running. Concrete or harder surfaces can be harder on your joints and uneven surfaces can increase chances of injuries such as ankle sprains.
  • Stay hydrated. This will help reduce the chances of muscle cramping and, therefore, injury. If it’s very hot or you sweat a lot make sure that you include some electrolytes in the form of salt. You can work with a coach or nutrition specialist to ensure you balance this appropriately for you.

While your Physiotherapist can help with your preparation for running and formulate a plan to help prevent injury and optimize performance, they are also there for you should you sustain an injury. If you do sustain an injury it’s important to address it early an fully. The sooner you see a Physio after and injury, the sooner we can get you back to doing what you love. (or what you’re trying to love!)