Lockdown has resulted in many people now taking up running since gyms have been closed and other forms of training facilities not allowed to operate. Many are trying to ascertain advice from friends that have been running, not too sure of how to begin or best practices, as well as running etiquette.
I have put together this article after seeing numerous runners in the first week of level 4 coming to see me with various niggles. The obvious were those with DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) effect due to running too much too soon. Plantar fascitiis seemed prevalent, as well as ITB and medical knee pain as many were trying to make sense of the 5km radius allowance and trying different routes. Those striding out for the 1st time, need to mindful that running on the road is a new concept for the parts of your anatomy that are specific to running, even though running involves total body mechanics. Be aware of the different surfaces you run on – uneven, slanting, change from tar to brick or tar to concrete. This can have an effect on your striking points and stabilisation. It can also alter your mechanics resulting in niggles or minor injury.
If you did not run much before lockdown commenced or ran a bit in a confined space, getting onto the road is equivalent to starting again. Many experienced runners may have treated lockdown like an off-season and are now building their mileage back up slowly. And this is how someone new to running should approach their new found hobby – which will become an addiction! Start slowly and don’t try to push your body too far or fast. Each week you can gradually add slightly more distance to ensure you don’t get an injury. Try mixing up your routes by doing a flat route one day then then a hilly route the next day and then one with a bit of both. Your body adjusts to the rigors of running and proprioceptively recognises it as non-harmful. We are likely to have a long break before races commence again and by periodising your running in this way you are keeping fit, slowly getting race ready, and not doing too much too soon. You are more likely to prevent injury as well.
If there is no clarity on when l the will lockdown end and the restriction on physical activity I suggest maintaining 20/25km per week. By doing average mileage for the next 2 months will ensure you don’t run more than necessary, preventing overuse injuries and ensuring longevity of your joints.
If you start experiencing niggles or injury as a result of running being all new to you, listen to your body and slow down, if not rest. Here are a few things to look out for. If you experience pain at the underneath of your foot, this could be plantar fasciitis which could result from incorrect foot strike or force distribution or your running shoes. If the area behind your ankle feels uncomfortable, sort of like a tight feel is an indication that you may have not warmed up and stretched your calves sufficiently before your run. Pain on the front of your knee is most likely the patellar reacting to incorrect loading or force distribution through the knee whereas pain on the outside is probably ITB syndrome common in runners with poor control going down hills, maligned hips or muscle imbalances. You might experience pain in your lower leg which could be the dreaded shin splints. See more about running injury terminology here.
Visit your physio if you feel the onset of an injury. Running is a beautiful activity that will change your life in the best way, if done correctly. Check out the Beginners section of the site for help with figuring out the best shoes for you, working to a beginner program specific, understanding nutrition, biomechanics and other little details that would help you understand the sport better. Enjoy running to its fullest and acquire better overall health at the same time.
Sumeshen Moodley is a qualified physiotherapist in Durban who has worked with numerous international sports teams and athletes. He is passionate about running and has a special interest in human movement and biomechanics to optimise athletic/sport performance. Find out more about Sumeshen here