So here are our top 5 tips to keep you running stronger, longer, and injury-free.
Wait, that’s not a running tip? Let us explain. You’ve committed to your physical health, now is the time to ‘one up’ your recovery.
Studies show us that injury risk increases by 1.7 times when your sleep drops below 7.5 hours. We understand this isn’t always realistic but a great goal to aim for. Sleeping properly also helps to decrease levels of cortisol, so it fits hand-in-hand with meditation.
If you struggle sleeping, try having a good bedtime routine – set a bedtime and stick to it! Wind down, write a to-do list for the next day so it’s not going round and round in your mind, and get away from screens and their blue light at least 30 minutes before bed.
If you can’t get your 8 hours of Zs during the night, power naps have also been shown to be effective in making up those sleep hours. To super-charge your naps, have a coffee then take a 30-minute nap. Caffeine takes about 30min to kick in, so you’ll wake up feeling even better!
2. The 80% rule
We know that 80% of runners run at 80% intensity 80% of the time. This is one of the biggest reasons people get injured – OVER-TRAINING!
Try taking it easy more! 80% of your training should be done at a comfortable pace where you can hold a conversation while running. At this pace, you can work on running further or for longer, rather than focussing on going faster.
Only 20% of your training should be done at a high intensity – whether this is interval work, shorter tempo runs, or longer race-pace runs.
Cadence is simply how many steps you take per minute or your step rate. Most runners sit between 150-170 steps per minute. Changing your cadence can significantly reduce the load of running on certain parts of your body.
A small increase in cadence can reduce the load on your knees by 20% and hips by 12%.
To increase your cadence just take shorter, faster steps. You can listen to Spotify playlists at 160BPM or 170BPM to see what it feels like.
Play with this over short distances just to see how it feels. When you really increase your cadence you will find you feel like you’re on your toes and using your calf muscles more.
When you slow your cadence you will feel heavier and like you’re on the back of your feet more.
There’s no right or wrong. Generally higher cadence helps hips and knees and lower cadence helps foot and ankle issues. If you’ve got some niggles, playing with your cadence can be a great way to self-manage.
Be careful to only change your cadence by 5-10% at a time, otherwise, your running will feel very hard and you’ll put yourself at risk of other injuries as you will be placing more load through different areas of your feet and legs.
4. Strength work
Simple strength exercises can reduce your risk of injury between 30-60%. More importantly, they make running easier (and faster).
A common mistake is runners doing 5 or more exercises when really, in the beginning, focus on 3 good exercises with quality and control is the key.
Another common mistake runners make is that they need to do high reps with low weight to build ‘endurance strength. Strength training is to build strength, your running is to build muscle endurance, so you actually want to go for low reps with heavyweights!
And don’t worry about getting bulky, you won’t look like a power-lifter unless you’re eating like a power-lifter!
3 key areas you want to target are;
- Soleus (one of the muscles in your calf) – this muscle is the work-horse for runners, taking 6-8x your body weight with every step! That’s more load than your quads and glutes combined! So if you’re going to pick one muscle to strengthen, pick soleus!
- Glute Medius – crab walks and toe taps will help to strengthen this muscle.
- Quads – the rear-foot elevated split squat is a nice balance of strength and control.
5. Eat right!
Fuel is important for any sport, and running is no different. Runners, especially endurance runners, often suffer from a condition called RED-S (relative energy deficiency in sport). Essentially this energy deficiency happens when you’re not eating enough to meet your training demands. This will lead to fatigue and poor performance in the short term, but in the long term, it will lead to break-down of tissues in the body like your bones and muscles because your body will have to pull energy out of those tissues to fuel your training and your survival.
A cardinal sign of RED-S is changing in your reproductive system – for women this presents as irregular or complete absence of periods (though contraception can mask this) and for men, it’s a loss of your morning erection (less than 5 times a week is a symptom of RED-S)
If you’re not sure if you are eating right for your training, you should reach out to a sports dietician, we would highly recommend blah blah at The Lifestyle Dietician.