New Year’s resolutions mean that some of you will be thinking of ways to start to get fit and healthy in 2018. So I expect that the clinic will soon be filling up with lots of new overload injuries. Aspirations may be jumping around your head such as “can I run a marathon like my sister did last year?” “Or maybe a Triathlon?”. Well, stop, take a breath and plan what exactly you are going to work towards. First, decide what your ultimate goal is. Then, break it up into small, bite size pieces and start to work on it gradually. When people start a new type of exercise or pick up a sport they haven’t done in a while, a common mistake they make is that they start too hard and too fast. The risk of this is that it can lead to injury, which can then have major set-backs with your training plans.
Many people who are new to exercise tend to choose to start running because it is convenient and does not cost anything. This is great, however, running is an extremely high impact exercise and sends heavy loads through your ankles, knees, hips and back. Additionally, some individuals may not be a ‘natural’ runner and their lower limb biomechanics can further increase the risk of putting excess strain through certain joints / structures in the body. This can all lead to potential injury. I am certainly NOT saying don’t start running, but my advice is; take it slow and steady. There are plenty of great apps out there to help. Just search for things like ‘couch to 5k’ and you will have an abundance of choice.
Here is an example of what may happen to your body if you attempt to go for a 3 mile run without ever running before:
- You leave the front door thinking; Yes, I feel good; my new gear is comfy, the sound in my new wireless headphones is amazing, I am so ready for this.
- Two minutes down the road, you may realise that your shoe laces are slightly loose and your heel is moving around in your new, funky, neon trainer. Oh well, you think it will be fine and you don’t have time to stop running to sort it out.
- Two more minutes in, you are struggling for breath, your chest is tight, but you can handle this.
- Two more minutes later, your right knee begins to hurt. This could be because the ligament on the inside of your knee is being overstrained as a result of the excessive external forces being placed upon it due to your reduced biomechanical lower limb alignment as you land on your right foot.
- Two more minutes later, your right heel starts aching. Potentially, this is due to the Achilles tendon becoming overloaded. Tendons connect muscles to bone and some of their key roles are shock absorbers and force transmitters. But, as a novice runner, your tendon may not be strong enough to do this job effectively.
- Two more minutes later – you have to stop running and decide everything hurts too much and you will walk home. So now, psychologically you feel as if you have failed and are questioning if maybe this running business isn’t for you in the first place.
- You go home and eat a chocolate bar and decide against exercise in 2018. Eating chocolate and watching TV on the sofa is far easier and less painful.
So, after seeing the negative spiral that can occur if you are not ready to run, let me demonstrate a more positive picture of what you should do to work towards achieving your goal;
- You leave the front door thinking, yes I feel good. My new gear is comfy, I am so ready for this.
- You have downloaded an app which is guiding you through your first run and the sound is fab through your new wireless headphones. You are even able to play your own choice of music through the app at the same time.
- The app tells you to run for one minute.
- You managed that ok, still feeling good.
- The app then tells you to walk for ninety seconds to recover, before running again for one minute.
- Yep still feeling great.
- Two minutes down the road, you realise that your shoe laces are slightly loose and your heel is moving around in your new, funky, neon trainer. It’s ok though because you have time to tighten the laces during the recovery period.
- You get home after thirty minutes and feel super pleased with yourself that you have managed your first run with no pain or difficulty.
- Your muscles ache a little bit but that is to be expected. Following exercise, normal microscopic damage to the muscle fibres occurs, causing soreness. This subsequently allows them to recover and rebuild, to then become stronger than they were before.
- After you stretch and foam roll, you make a healthy recovery smoothie and feel brilliant for the rest of the day due to the endorphin release in your brain.
- You look at your diary and plan when in the week you can schedule your next run.
To summarise, my key messages from this blog are:
- Well done for deciding to get fit in 2018
- Exercise is great. We should all do it. Just don’t over-do it.
- If you are starting a new exercise or picking something up which you haven’t done in a long time, start slow and gradual and progress in small steps – perhaps follow a published plan (through apps etc.)
- Don’t forget the importance of stretching / foam rolling to recover (more to come on another blog)
Any comments and thoughts on this blog are much appreciated and if you have any personal recommendations of specific running apps then please comment.
Happy exercising and here’s to starting 2018 injury free.