Pain – Is Not A Part of the Process. Yes, you will have muscle soreness. But shin-splint aren’t “just a by-product” of running. Joint pain is not “just a part of running”. Pain is a sign something is not working. Bad posture, over-exerting yourself, not recovering properly. You should be sore. But there is a big difference between muscle soreness and hurting yourself. If you’re experiencing pain – see a professional. Check with your doctor that you don’t have any issues preventing running. Go to a running clinic. See a sports-doctor. Or, you know, stop trying to be Usain Bolt and go easy on your runs. Be Sore, Not in Pain.
Relax – You are running, not disarming a bomb with 10 seconds left on the timer. You are not trying to solve all world problems. You are going for a run to help improve your overall well-being. So deep breath, relax, and be mindful that this extends to other areas. Your jaw should not be clenched during your runs. Relax. Breathe.
This extends to your hands: Keep your hands loose and below your chest. No making fists. Don’t punch forward, this isn’t a movie and you aren’t Rocky. Don’t hold anything. If you must (music player, dog leash) switch hands halfway through the run and make sure you aren’t squeezing the life out of what you holding.
This also extends to your upper body. Your shoulders should be at a natural position. If you need to, shrug your shoulders to your ears and let them fall naturally into place. Don’t be a statue. Don’t tense up. Enjoy the time you have to run.
Elbows – Running is very engaging, but make sure you aren’t over-extending or over-exerting yourself. Keep you elbows bent at about 90 degrees (or less). Don’t lose that bend in the “back swing”. You want to keep your arms close to you. In other words no failing arms, no windmills. Don’t waste energy swing your arms around. This goes with the above. Loose, relaxed, but not flinging about the place.
Your Core – Is your friend. Posture is important. So stand up straight. No leaning forward, no hunching over, and if any point you find yourself bent forward at the waist either correct it (or if you have been running awhile, consider that you are done for the day). Run tall. A natural slight lean forward will generally occur when you do so (from the ankles, not the waist). But relax, head up, run tall. Your body will work itself out.
Core training will help with this. Enjoy some nice core exercises in your overall routine. A strong core will help immensely with running posture. So don’t just count on running.
Quick-Stride – Don’t extend your stride. Avoid reaching forward with you foot. Longer strides are not your friend. This is where a lot of injury tends to happen. You are creating impact shocks which can damage joints and muscle. So keep a short, natural, quick stride. No worries, we got you covered on the how.
Strike – Your foot should strike under your knee. Foot-fall should not be in front of your knee. I prefer a mid-foot strike myself, but doesn’t matter if it is forefoot, mid, or heel (which I don’t like). The key is to make sure your foot is not in front of your knee. Especially if you are running downhill. Put your foot down under your hips. This requires a short stride and helps to keep you from over-extending. You are pushing up and off the ground. You can’t push up and off if you are over-extended pass the hips.
Cadence – 170 should be good for most people, eventually you can hit the generally accepted number of 180. What does this mean and how can you figure it out? This is simply how many times your feet hit the ground in one minute. So you could count how many times your right foot hits the ground in a minute, double it, and you’ll have your number. Or you can count your steps for 15 seconds and times that by four and you’ll have your number. Or I am sure there is some app out there for it. Either way you should look to get a cadence around 180 (it is a general guideline and not an exact number). Know what helps this? Not over-extending with long strides.
Breathe – Yeah. Repeating a bit here. But you should seek to have a good steady breath during your runs. Will you become out of breath? Eventually, sure. But if you are huffing and puffing, then you are most likely leaning forward and over-extending your stride. So just stop. Jedi can seek to modify the calming breath to help regulate. Or simply, in-breath three steps, out-breath three steps. Regulating your breathing is important and can help avoid cramping up during runs. Like the cadence this isn’t stone. Just something to be mindful of and to help make sure you aren’t killing yourself (especially on your first couple of outings).
Preparation – Invest in yourself and your physical well-being. Running can be a wonderful stress reliever. It can be a great meditation. It can be a wonderful tool. But you have to put a little effort into it. Preparation is key. That means making sure you have good shoes. Proper support makes a difference. That means taking the time to stretch out properly before your run. It means making sure you stay hydrated. In means not eating a McDonald’s Big Platter breakfast ten minutes before you go running. Or wearing sweatpants when it is 100 degrees outside. Invest in yourself and your practice – as you would anything else. Talk to the experts and get properly outfitted.
Recovery – Give yourself time to recover. Makes changes gradually and allow for your body to adjust. A good diet and plenty of water will help your recovery time/process. If you have a love one that likes to spoil you – get some massage time in.
Patience – Seriously, you are not Pheidippides (thankfully). This is a PROCESS. Start slow. Listen to your body DURING your runs. If you’re done after five minutes, you are done. How do you feel the next day? Good? Five minutes again, see maybe about seven minutes, if not no worries. Build up. Don’t worry about speed or distance when you first begin. Just focus on good running posture and listening to your body. At the end of your run: You should be sweaty and out of breath, but still smiling and feeling good. And absolutely you should be walking a bit funny the next day, but only because of sore leg muscles, not painful injuries.