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Running is a fantastic way to stay fit, but it’s also a high-impact activity that can put strain on your muscles. To prevent injuries and improve performance, it’s essential to incorporate both dynamic and static stretches into your routine. This guide will describe some of the the best stretches for different muscle groups targeted by running.
Dynamic stretches involve movement and are typically performed before a run to warm up the muscles and increase range of motion.
Leg Swings: Stand next to a wall for support, swing one leg forward and backward in a controlled manner. Repeat 10-15 times, then switch legs.
Walking Lunges: Step forward with your right foot and lower your body into a lunge. Push off with your right foot and bring your left foot forward into the next lunge. Repeat for 10-15 lunges.
High Knees: Stand tall and march in place while lifting your knees as high as possible. Do this for 30 seconds..
Butt Kicks: While standing tall, kick one heel up towards your glutes. Lower that foot back down and repeat with the other foot. Do this for 30 seconds.
Hip Circles: Stand with your hands on your hips and your feet shoulder-width apart. Make circles with your hips in a clockwise direction for 10-15 seconds, then repeat in a counter-clockwise direction.
Arm Circles: Extend your arms out to the sides and make small circles in the air. Do this for 10-15 seconds, then reverse the direction of the circles.
Always ensure to perform these stretches in a controlled manner to prevent injury.
Static stretches are held for a certain period and are usually performed after a run to help cool down the body and improve flexibility.
Quadriceps Stretch: Stand tall, bend your knee, bringing your heel towards your buttock, and grasp your ankle. You should feel a stretch along the front of your thigh. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch legs.
Hamstring Stretch: Sit on the ground with one leg outstretched and the other bent with the foot touching the inner thigh of the outstretched leg. Reach towards your toes as far as comfortable. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch legs.
Calf Stretch: Stand facing a wall with one foot in front of the other. Lean forward, keeping your back heel on the ground. You should feel a stretch in your back leg’s calf. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch legs.
Hip Flexor Stretch: Kneel on one knee and place the other foot flat on the ground in front of you, knee bent. Push your hips forward until you feel a stretch in the front of your hip. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides.
Glute Stretch: Sit on the ground with both legs straight. Bend one knee and cross that leg over the straight leg. Hug the bent knee towards your chest until you feel a stretch in your glute. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch legs.
Always ensure to perform these stretches in a controlled manner to prevent injury.
Remember, everyone’s flexibility and comfort levels are different, so never push a stretch to the point of pain. Consistency is key for seeing improvements in flexibility and performance.
Incorporating these stretches into your running routine can help keep your muscles flexible, strong, and healthy, which is crucial for maintaining a good running form and preventing injuries.
Running is a fantastic way to stay fit and healthy. But to get the most out of your runs and avoid injury, it’s crucial to incorporate stretching into your routine. This article will delve into the importance of stretching before and after running, providing you with practical tips and techniques.
The Importance and Benefits of Stretching for Runners
Stretching is a vital part of any runner’s routine, offering numerous benefits that can enhance performance and overall health. Regular stretching increases flexibility and range of motion, helping runners avoid injuries and recover more quickly after workouts. It also boosts circulation, delivering more oxygen to the muscles, which can help alleviate post-run soreness and fatigue. Additionally, stretching can improve running form by balancing muscle groups and promoting better alignment. Incorporating a consistent stretching routine into your training regimen can lead to more efficient workouts, improved endurance, and a more enjoyable running experience. Remember, a well-stretched runner is a healthier, happier runner.
Types of Stretches
Static stretching is a popular and effective method of improving flexibility and range of motion. It involves extending a specific muscle or group of muscles to its fullest length and holding the position for a period, typically between 15 to 60 seconds. This type of stretching can help alleviate muscle tightness, improve posture, and enhance athletic performance. It’s particularly beneficial for runners, as it can help prevent injuries and speed up recovery after workouts.
Dynamic stretching is a form of active movement that isn’t about holding a stretch but rather taking your body through ranges of motion that will better prepare you for your workout or sporting activity. It’s an excellent way to improve mobility, flexibility, and muscular performance. Dynamic stretching activates the muscles you will use during your workout, improving muscle memory, and reducing the risk of injury. It’s particularly beneficial before running or high-intensity activities, as it prepares the body for movement and increases heart rate and blood flow.
Ballistic stretching is a dynamic exercise that involves bouncing movements to push your body beyond its normal range of motion. This form of stretching can improve your flexibility and increase your range of motion, making it a popular choice among athletes. However, it’s important to note that ballistic stretching should be performed with caution, as the rapid movements can potentially lead to injury if not done correctly. Always ensure proper form and technique to maximize the benefits and minimize the risk.
Muscle Energy Technique (MET)
Muscle Energy Technique (MET) stretching is a type of manual therapy used to lengthen shortened or spastic muscles, improve joint mobility, and relieve pain. This technique involves the patient actively using their muscles on request from a precise position and in a specific direction against a distinctly executed counterforce. The process is repeated, often resulting in an increased range of motion and flexibility. MET stretching is commonly used in physical therapy and sports rehabilitation settings due to its effectiveness and versatility. However, it’s crucial to perform these stretches under the guidance of a trained professional to avoid injury and ensure optimal results.
Passive stretching, also known as relaxed stretching, is a technique where an external force exerts upon the limb to move it into the new position. This force could be your body weight, a strap, gravity, another person, or a stretching device. With passive stretching, you relax the muscle you’re trying to stretch and rely on the external force to hold you in place. This form of stretching is beneficial for cooling down after exercise, rehabilitation, and increasing flexibility. However, it’s important to ensure the stretch is applied gradually to avoid injury.
The goal of pre-run stretching is to prepare your body for the activity ahead. Pre-run stretching is an essential part of any runner’s routine. It prepares your body for the physical exertion of running by increasing blood flow to the muscles, enhancing flexibility and elasticity, and reducing the risk of injury. The benefits of pre-run stretching are many fold. It can improve your performance by preparing your muscles for the work they’re about to do. It also increases muscle temperature, which leads to more efficient energy utilization. Moreover, pre-run stretching can help align muscle fibers, leading to better coordination during your run. It helps improve joint range of motion. Remember, a well-executed pre-run stretching routine can set the stage for a successful run. So, don’t skip this crucial step in your running regimen!
Best Dynamic Stretches for Pre-Run
Dynamic stretches are an excellent choice for a pre-run routine. They involve moving parts of your body and gradually increasing reach, speed of movement, or both, which can effectively prepare your muscles for running.
Here are some of the best dynamic stretches for pre-run:
Leg swings: Stand sideways near a wall for support and swing your leg forward and backward 10 to 15 times each. This stretch targets your hamstrings and hip flexors.
Lunges: Step forward with one foot and lower your body until your front knee is at a 90-degree angle. This stretch helps loosen up your hip flexors and activates your glutes.
Arm circles: Extend your arms out to your sides and make small circles, gradually increasing their size. This stretch warms up your shoulder joints.
High knees: March in place while lifting your knees as high as possible. This stretch activates your hip flexors and increases heart rate.
Butt kicks: Jog in place while kicking your heels up towards your glutes. This stretch warms up your quads and increases heart rate.
Power Skips: While jogging forward, start to skip with the aim of jumping as high as you can on each skip.
Spend 10 minutes on these dynamic stretches. Then jog gradually until your heart rate gradually reaches 120 beats per minute after 5 minutes. Continue to gradually build up in the next 5 minutes to your sustainable aerobic pace. Your aerobic pace is 60% to 70% of your maximum heart rate, but without measurement, it is the state where your breathing is deeper but still controlled and you can carry a conversation without discomfort. Incorporating these dynamic stretches into your pre-run routine can help enhance your running performance and reduce the risk of injury. Remember, it’s always important to listen to your body and stretch within your comfort zone.
After a run, your muscles are warm and more elastic, making it the perfect time to stretch. Post-run stretching is a crucial part of any running routine. It aids in the recovery process by helping to cool down the body, return the heart rate to its resting state, and reduce muscle tension. Stretching after a run can help prevent stiffness and soreness by promoting blood flow and allowing the muscles to relax. It can also increase flexibility and range of motion, which can improve overall running performance and reduce the risk of injury. Key areas to focus on include the calves, hamstrings, hip flexors, and quadriceps. Remember, consistency is key when it comes to post-run stretching, so make it an integral part of your running routine for optimal benefits.
Best Static Stretches for Post-Run
Static stretching is an excellent way to cool down after a run, helping to reduce muscle tension and promote recovery. Static stretching involves holding a stretch for a certain period. It’s best done after running as it helps lengthen the muscles you’ve just used.
Here are some of the best static stretches for post-run:
Hamstring Stretch: Sit on the ground and extend one leg. Move your other foot toward your inner thigh, so that it touches the top part of your extended leg.
Quadriceps Stretch: Stand upright and pull your leg behind you with the opposite hand, stretching the front of your thigh.
Calf Stretch: Lean against a wall with one leg straight behind you and the other bent in front, pushing the heel of the back leg into the ground.
Low Lunge Stretch: Step one foot forward into a lunge position, keeping your other knee on the ground and the front knee directly over the ankle. Press your hips down.
Glute Stretch: Sit on the ground, cross one leg over the other, and pull the raised knee towards your chest. Remember, hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds and breathe deeply to help your body relax.
Butterfly Stretch: Sit on the ground, bring the soles of your feet together, and gently press down on your knees with your elbows.
Spend 10 minutes on these static stretches, typically holding the stretches for 30 seconds at a time. Elevate your feet for 2 to 3 minutes afterwards to return pooled blood from your legs back to your upper torso to prevent tightness in your legs. Incorporating these static stretches into your post-run routine can aid in recovery and enhance your future running performance.
Stretching Techniques and Tips
How to Stretch Properly
Effective stretching is a key component of any fitness routine, contributing to improved flexibility, increased range of motion, and enhanced athletic performance. Here are some proper techniques for effective stretching:
Warm Up First: You can warm up with light cardio activity before you stretch to increase muscle temperature and improve stretchability.
Gradual Stretch, Don’t Bounce: Stretch your muscles gradually. Avoid bouncing or forcing a stretch, as this can cause injury. Bouncing can cause small tears in the muscle.
Hold Each Stretch: Hold each stretch for about 30 seconds. This allows the muscle time to relax and lengthen.
Don’t Push Too Hard: Stretch to the point of mild discomfort, not pain.
Breathe: Don’t hold your breath while stretching. Breathe freely to help your body relax. Inhale naturally, slowly exhale. Focus on your breathe to relax.
Consistency: Make stretching a regular part of your routine for the best results.
Proper stretching techniques can help prevent injuries and make your workouts more effective.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
When it comes to stretching, it’s essential to avoid common mistakes to ensure effectiveness and prevent injury. Here are some common stretching mistakes to avoid:
Bouncing During a Stretch: Known as ballistic stretching, this can cause small tears in the muscle, leading to pain and decreased flexibility. Opt for static or dynamic stretching instead.
Not Holding the Stretch Long Enough: For a stretch to be effective, it needs to be held for at least 20-30 seconds.
Forcing a Stretch: Stretching should never be painful. If it hurts, you’re pushing too hard. A gentle pull is all you need.
Neglecting to Stretch Both Sides Equally: Always ensure you’re stretching both sides of your body equally to maintain balance and prevent injury.
Skipping the Cool-Down Stretch: Post-workout stretching helps to reduce muscle tension, promote recovery, and increase flexibility.
Remember, proper technique is key to effective stretching.
Incorporating stretching into your running routine is a small investment of time that offers big returns in performance and health. So before you hit the pavement next time, take a few minutes to stretch—it could make all the difference!
Rotating running shoes is a practice that is often recommended for runners. There are several reasons why this is beneficial, including reducing the risk of injury, making shoes last longer, matching a particular type of shoe to the type of workout and optimizing performance in each run.
Reduce Risk of Injury
One of the primary reasons to rotate running shoes is to reduce the risk of injury, studies have found up to 39%. Rotating your shoes ensures that they provide the cushioning and stability they should. The cushion in the soles need time to decompress. By swapping shoes, you also prevent a single pair of shoes from losing their cushioning and stability properties. These properties are important to reducing the load on the joints, muscles, and ligaments.
Make Your Shoes Last Longer
To be more accurate, another reason to rotate running shoes is to delay their end-of-life. Running shoes last between 300 to 500 miles. This depends on several factors such as how heavy you land, the surfaces you run on, the frequency of your runs, and whether or not you rotate your shoes. Rotating your shoes can help extend the time before reaching 300 to 500 miles. When the cushion in the soles do not decompress anymore, the wear on the soles is excessive, or the soles are askew, it is time to throw them out.
Matching the Optimal Shoe to the Workout
Finally, rotating running shoes can optimize your performance in each run by customizing the shoe used for the run. For example, you might use lighter weight shoes for speed workouts and heavier, more supportive cushioning shoes for long runs. For trail runs, you may opt for a trail running shoe which is more rugged and has more stability and traction on rugged terrain. Including a variety of well-fitting, comfortable shoes will help you create a beneficial running shoe rotation.
In conclusion, rotating running shoes is a practice that can provide many benefits for runners. It can reduce the risk of injury, make shoes last longer, and optimize performance in each run. If you are a regular runner, consider creating a running shoe rotation to take advantage of these benefits.
When I was a kid, the only running that interested me was how fast I can run compared to my friends at school. Speed was all that mattered. As kids, we didn’t have any concept of endurance. We ran when we felt like and stopped when we felt like.
When an adult is considering a regimented running program, the goal is building endurance. Since you are not used to running regularly, then chances are you will find it difficult to sustain an effort for a prolonged period. But don’t despair! Everyone can develop their endurance. It’s how you do it that matters.
Important Matters First
First and foremost, get a checkup from your physician and clearance that it is safe to begin an exercise program. It does not matter what your age is or if you believe you are healthy. Play it safe in case you have a hidden medical issue. Any advice offered here assumes you have clearance from your doctor to exercise. If you have any medical conditions that require medical monitoring, follow your doctor’s advice.
Your Most Important Attributes
Quite simply, there are a couple of things you need to succeed—patience and discipline.
Don’t worry about how fast you are running. Don’t worry if people are walking faster than you. Don’t worry about strangers passing judgment (because it’s all in your head unless you’re dealing with immature teenagers).
Just have the discipline to stick with your plan. Before you know it, you will have gradually attained your intermediate goals and can look back at how far you’ve come.
Fastest and Easiest Way to Get Fit
Running is one of the easiest and fastest ways to get fit.
The main thing you need is a good pair of running shoes. When I say a good pair, I don’t necessarily mean an expensive one. The most expensive shoes are not necessarily the best ones for you individually.
What matters is that the shoe is right for your gait, your running style, and your weight. I will leave purpose out of this because beginners are not thinking about speed training or trail running. The main concern is how the shoes will make your feet feel as you reliably build up your mileage over time.
For more information on how to choose the right running shoes, click on this article.
Other than shoes, running attire may come into consideration, but more so under less than ideal conditions. Otherwise, a tee-shirt, shorts, and a good pair of socks is good enough on any nice day. It’s best to choose clothing with wicking properties that “breathe”, so you won’t be soaked in sweat. This is even more important in cold weather because wet clothes magnify wind chill.
For inclement weather, use layering. In precipitation, use a water-resistant shell as the top layer. In very cold weather, use a windbreaker as the top layer. Although these top layers are not breathable, their function under these conditions are more important, especially the windbreaker to prevent chills. You can always unzip during a run to allow perspiration to evaporate to remain dry.
You don’t have to join a gym and pay membership fees. You don’t necessarily have to buy expensive specialized equipment.
Most Efficient Use of Your Time
At the same intensity, running burns the most calories per unit of time than any other form of exercise. As you build your endurance, you’re devoting more time to each session. The total calories burned per session will increase. This gives a multiplier effect to reducing your weight.
One of the beauties of running is that it can start the second you leave your residence and stop the second you return. No time is wasted traveling to a destination before starting your exercise session. Prep time is minimal, too. Just change clothes, stretch, and head out. It’s not a big production.
Food and Drink
A good rule-of-thumb is waiting 2 hours after a heavy meal before engaging in sustained or intense physical activity, running or otherwise. This is to make sure food is completely digested to prevent discomfort. Lighter snacks won’t cause problems.
Another good rule-of-thumb is to drink at a least a glass of water or more before heading out. If it is hot, drink 2 glasses or more, whatever you can handle without feeling too bloated. Once you are fully warmed up and begin to sweat, this will keep you well-hydrated for the run.
I cannot stress this enough. It is very important to warm up before jogging or running. Not only does it prevent injuries, but also gradually adapts you into a good mental state. Think about how out-of-breath you feel when you suddenly exert yourself and how unsustainable it is. If you slowly work yourself into the pace, I guarantee you will feel much more comfortable. Look forward to the warmup as a process to gradually bring yourself into workout mode.
I know that there are many so-called experts who parrot studies showing that stretching beforehand is not valuable. But I will firmly disagree and here is the reason why.
The studies that reach such a conclusion measure the value of stretching by whether flexibility has been increased. They observe subjects can reach further after exercise than before. That is because your body is hot after exercise. Heat makes your muscles more pliable. Their conclusion is purely focused on whether stretching increases your flexibility. And I agree it is useful after exercise. But stretching before movement is not for increasing flexibility. It serves a different purpose.
Have you ever sat for a long period of time and had to gingerly stand up and walk slowly? What would happen if you suddenly jumped up? Think of an even more severe example like sitting or kneeling on the floor for some time. When your joints and muscled are stiff from being in one position for a long time, sudden forceful movement may result in an injury. You may hear someone describe it as a “pop” somewhere in their joints.
This is why you need to slowly stretch before running. The goal is to get your muscles and joints gradually moving to full range of motion. It also releases some tension in certain muscles that may be holding their grip from certain prolonged positions. It also gets the blood circulating, sort of waking up your muscles, ligaments, and tendons for the physical work to come.
What about those who advocate jogging lightly first to bring up your body temperature, then stretch? Again, this recommendation is misplaced. It is still predicated on the belief that the only value of stretching is to increase your flexibility. If you jump right into the activity even if it’s slow, you still have not eliminated the need to move your joints through their full range of motion first to avoid injury.
The bottom line is you never know which muscles or joints are tight, so it is safest to move them all through their full range of motion before any exertion at any level. Warming up has nothing to do with improving how far you can stretch.
After slowing stretching out, begin your run by jogging slowly. Use 10 minutes to gradually bring your pace up to a sustainable aerobic pace. Start a slow as you need. By the 5-minute mark, your pulse should be around 120 beats per minute. By the 10-minute mark, you should be at your aerobic pace.
What is your aerobic pace? Basically, it is a pace where you are breathing deeply and rhythmically but can comfortably carry a conversation. You should feel like you can carry this pace for some time. You’re not laboring nor hyperventilating. You’re working, but you can sustain the workload.
Remember, you are not training to run faster. You are training to run farther at a comfortable pace. And you will extend that distance over time. This should be your primary goal as a beginning runner. It’s about finishing, not finishing fast.
Most beginning runners overstride. Make a conscious effort to land your foot under your hips, not in front of them. When done properly, you’ll notice that either the balls of your feet touch the ground first with the heel touching down afterwards or your feet land somewhat flat to the ground. Beginning runners who overstride tend to land on their heels.
But it’s alright if you can’t help but land on your heels. It takes time to adapt. And this is the reason why some shoes are designed for heel-strikers. They usually have more padding under the heels. Usually, the heels are higher than the mid-soles. Even if you are striking the ground mid-foot first if you were barefoot, the thicker heels will touch the ground at the same time or first. As you progress in your running, you’ll naturally start to consider different shoe designs when the time comes.
When you shorten your stride and have your feet land under your hips, you’ll notice it’s easier and more efficient. Your turnover is smoother and quicker. You’re not lumbering. It feels like downshifting to a right gear.
Imagine running light. I see some people stomping the ground and lumbering along. Usually, it’s a heavier runner with overpronation. It’s very inefficient and a recipe for injury. But if you happen to be a heavier runner, don’t despair. Do the best you can to correct your technique and choose shoes with the right support. It will eventually improve as you become fitter and more efficient, but it will take time. Don’t give up!
Arm carriage is a personal preference. Don’t be afraid to experiment or switch positions for several minutes. You may find more comfort with a higher arm carriage or a lower arm carriage or something in-between. Just don’t swing them excessively sideways which dissipates energy that can be used to propel you forward instead.
Breathe through both your nose and mouth and from the diaphragm. This means fill your lungs from the bottom up. Let it happen naturally. Don’t force it. Your belly expands from inhalation, not your chest. Observe the way you breathe when you are relaxing in a chair. It’s a deep breath while your belly expands. This helps you relax while you are running. It takes practice because most people will expand their chest by reflex when they need more air. But that tightens your neck, chest, and shoulder muscles and creates discomfort.
When you begin running, you may experience side stitches. It takes some time and gradual adaptation to rid yourself of them.
There are two main reasons why we get side stitches. The first is our diaphragm which is our breathing muscle is not accustomed to operating under constant abdominal stress. The second is it needs to be trained to relax under stress so it can do its job effectively.
A surefire way to reduce and end side stitches is to strengthen the abdominals. Regular ab work including the side abs will strengthen the muscles that support the diaphragm.
And using the correct belly breathing technique while running, as described above, will help you relax your diaphragm, preventing side stitches.
If you are in good health already, you should be able to run for 20 minutes at your aerobic pace without stopping, after a 10-minute gradual warmup jog-to-run.
But everyone is different. You may find that you can only run 10 minutes without stopping. That’s alright! It’s not a contest. Be patient and disciplined.
What if You Can’t Even Run a Mile?
If you can’t even run a mile, here is a plan to help you run a mile without stopping.
If you can’t measure out a mile, don’t worry. Approximate with time. Roughly 10 minutes is a good start. Go through your warmup routine. Then alternate walking a minute and jogging a minute at your aerobic pace. Repeat 5 times for a total of 10 minutes. Finally, finish with the cool down process explained later in this article. Do this 3 times a week.
The next week, perform the same routine, but shorten the walking periods by 15 seconds and extend the jogging periods by 15 seconds. The next week, shorten and lengthen by another 15 seconds. In 2 more weeks, you’ll be running 10 minutes without stopping.
From here, to build up to 20 minutes without stopping, run the first 10 minutes and walk/run the second the same way as above. Reduce the walk and expand the run by 15 seconds each week for the second 10 minutes until continuous running.
Distance or Time?
Most people default to distance, but I advocate using time instead. Here’s why? Different variables can affect your effort. You may have a bad day. You may be stressed out. You may be tired from other commitments. The weather may be factor.
Consistency in your effort is what counts. If you ran 20 minutes at your prescribed aerobic pace, you did exactly this. If you used 2 miles instead of 20 minutes as your measurement, what if it was cold and windy during a workout and it took you longer than 20 minutes at the same effort? Well, you have effectively placed more volume onto your total workout time. And if you were feeling great, then you’ve short-changed your total workout time by finishing 2 miles in less than 20 minutes. This unpredictability affects your steady progression. You may overtrain or undertrain at certain times.
If you use time as a measurement, your workload is more controlled for steady progress. Eventually, when you get in better shape, you’ll notice you’re covering more mileage in the same time. By then, knowing your average pace per mile, you will have an accurate estimate of how far you are running.
So don’t worry about how far you are running. Trust the process and it will take care of itself.
How Do You Increase Your Volume?
From your starting point, I recommend running 3 times per week. Increase your time by 10% each week. So if you are starting at 20 minutes (after a 10 minute warmup), increase it to 22 minutes.
Repeat this 10% increase for 2 weeks which would make take you to week 3—20 minutes for week 1, 22 minutes for week 2, and 24.2 minutes (well, I’ll round it to 24) for week 3. For week 4, go back to the same time as week 1.
Week 4 is an active recovery week. It gives you a physical and mental break, something to look forward to. You’ll feel like you are just going through the motions that week because you’re confident that you can easily take on these 3 sessions.
Now, in the next 4 weeks, you will repeat the climb, but you’re starting from 22 minutes for week 1, 24 minutes for week 2, and 26.6 minutes (well, I’ll round it to 27 minutes) for week 3. And for week 4, go back down to 22 minutes as in week1.
This gradual progression helps your body to slowly acclimate to running on a regular basis. Over time, the distance or time covered will also sneak up on you. Before you know it, you’re so used to the routine that you will be amazed how comfortable you feel running longer distances.
How far do you take this volume? It depends on your goals. For most people, an hour is enough. Remember, we’re just trying to build the base level of aerobic fitness. After that, you should be fit enough to mix in some variety with shorter, higher intensity workouts if you want. Running up to 2 hours takes a lot out of you and saps your carbohydrate stores. It takes time to recover from such efforts. Unless you are trying to run a marathon, it’s not necessary to take your long runs that far on a regular basis.
If you do the math, you’ll see that going through the 4-week cycles will take some time to progress to a level of consistent endurance. Remember the most important attributes? Patience and discipline. If you stick to the regimen, you can get there. None of your runs are painful in nature where you are mentally wondering when will the pain stop? You may end up looking forward to them as time to clear your mind.
What If You Have a Setback?
What if you get sick during training? What if you have little sleep due to other commitments?
Don’t sweat it! Take the time off that you need.
Don’t work out if you are sick. Instead, take the time to recover faster. When you return to your training, drop it down to the prior 4-week cycle to work your way back and regain your strength.
If you lack sleep, it depends on how much and how long. If it’s short-term, flex your running schedule. If it’s cumulative, get the rest you need first, then drop down to the prior 4-week cycle to regain your strength. The longer the gap, the further back you need to drop to prior cycles.
If you took several months off, you may find you need to start all over again. But that’s alright! The goal is to get your fitness to a new steady state. This means accepting there will always be ups and downs. It would be pointless to rush back to where you were every time there’s a setback. Once you accept they will happen, you’ll realize there’s no rush to return to form. It will eventually return.
Finally, always leave time for a slow cool down jog of 5 minutes. Use this to bring your heart rate down to 120 beats per minute. At an aerobic intensity level, 5 minutes is usually enough.
After this, put on some warm clothes. Stretch your muscles out. Now is the time to improve flexibility since your muscles are warm. Use a wall to elevate your feet for a couple of minutes.
It’s also a good time for an immediate healthy recovery snack with some protein and carbohydrates. Immediately after a workout is the best time for your muscles to replenish their carbohydrate stores. Eat a meal within 2 hours. Keep it healthy though. That’ll help you feel better for future workouts.
This fueling process helps your muscles recover faster and be ready for the next workout. With endurance training over time, your muscles and liver will be conditioned to store more of the carbs you eat as glycogen in anticipation of the next workload from training. They will also spare these carbs knowing that you will need to dose them over the entire length of your workout. Although the more fit you are, the more carbs can be stored, there is still a finite limit. Your body will learn how to increase fat burning for fuel to offset.
The human body burns carbs and fat for fuel simultaneously. The more the aerobic system is trained for endurance, the more fat is used in this mixture and the less carbs. The carbohydrate sparing is to prevent the “bonk”, a state where carbs are depleted and the body shuts down. Energy levels decrease dramatically and you start to get the chills.
So, this is how you build endurance. Train to increase your aerobic endurance, so your body learns to recalibrate its fat/carb fuel mixture. This is your body’s way to prevent you from “bonking” and ensure you can go the distance. As you can see, this is not something that can happen overnight. It takes time and acclimation to reach this new steady state of conditioning. Patience and discipline. You’ll be there before you know it. Enjoy the journey!
Are you asking yourself “which running shoe should I buy”? What are the best running shoes for men? What are the best running shoes for women? These are usually the first questions that come to mind, but there’s a lot more to consider when buying the right running shoe for yourself.
Picking the right running shoe begins with assessment of yourself as a runner. How is your gait? Are you a pronator, a supinator, or is your gait neutral? What is your weight for your frame? Are your arches high, medium, or low? How about your running style? Are you a heel-striker or a mid-foot striker? Do you tend to lumber along or do you turn your legs over easily and smoothly?
The definition of a pronator is a person who’s knees buckle inward as one rolls through the stride. There are different severities of pronation from mild to over-pronation. The definition of a supinator (under-pronator) is a person who’s knees hardly buckle inwards at all when rolling through a stride. A neutral stride does not have either of these anomalies.
How do you assess your gait? Here are some considerations for your analysis, but take them all into consideration to reach a conclusion. Considering only one method is not reliable.
Most runners whose feet point outwards (duck feet) are pronators, but this is not true with all pronators. Some pronators’ feet point inward (pigeon-toed) and their knees roll inward during the stride, too. Avoid reaching conclusions based on whether you have duck feet or are pigeon-toed. And avoid conclusions based on your observations while walking.
Supinators tend to have bowleggedness. This results in a tendency to land on the outside of the soles whether heels or midsole and wear down the outside sole of shoes faster. However, again, refrain from reaching conclusions without looking at all the facts.
Some runners may have multiple opposing characteristics, some of which offset each other’s effect. For example, a runner can have duck-feet and is bowlegged. So is he or she a pronator, supinator, or have a neutralized gait from the offset between these two factors?
Your gait can also change over time as a result of improving fitness, decreased weight, better form, and more efficiency.
The wear of the sole on your shoes can also indicate whether you have pronation, supination, or a neutral gait. But avoid reaching conclusions solely based on wear, too.
Generally, if the inside of your soles wear down faster both at the heels and the balls of the feet, it is an indication you are a pronator. The more lopsided the wear, the more over-pronation.
If the outside of your soles wear down faster both at the heels and the balls of the feet, it is an indication you are a supinator. There is less variability with supination because the human knee does not buckle outward extremely.
If the sole wear shows outside or even at the heel and middle to inside at the balls of the feet, it is an indication your gait is neutral.
Understanding your gait is the most important first step. You don’t need to pay for a special analysis. Observations from a friend who can watch your gait while running behind you is all the feedback you really need. Couple this information with your observations on where your toes point while running and the pattern of sole wear. This will give you the information you need to conclude about your running gait.
Your gait will determine whether a stability or neutral shoe is best for you.
Foot arches play a role, too.
Runners with higher arches tend to be supinators. Supinators strike the ground with the outside of their feet first, be it heel or midsole. There is little inward roll in their stride, wearing the outside edge of their shoes faster. This gait places a lot of stress on the foot, the ankle, and the outside of the lower leg. Peroneal tendonitis (outside ankle) may result.
Runners with low arches tend to be over-pronators, facilitating knee roll-ins. But again, it is not an end-all diagnosis because low arches combined with bowleggedness may result in a neutral gait.
Your weight is also an important consideration. If you are heavier for your frame, you need a shoe with a higher density and firmer sole for extra support. If you choose a lightweight or soft-soled shoe, you will surely end up with pain. Just like a soft mattress that is too soft to support a heavy person and will result in back pain, a running shoe that is not firm enough in the sole and lacks dense cushioning will result in injuries.
Your running style is sometimes related to your weight, depending on you personally.
Some heavier runners lumber along, stomping on each stride. Lighter runners tend to land lightly and stride freely.
However, this also is a function of your aerobic fitness. The better your cardiovascular fitness, the more fluid your stride and the better your cadence.
If you are a lumbering heavier runner, you will find your stride becoming more fluid and lighter as you become more fit.
Do you land first on your heel or your mid-foot?
If you are not a heel-striker, it is even more important to have the right mid-sole. A shoe with too soft a mid-sole or not enough density in the mid-sole will not provide enough of the right support. There is a lot of focus on heel support mostly due to the fact that heel strikers tend to be less experienced runners and heel striking tends to result in more injuries.
Typically, when a runner gains more experience, the stride becomes more efficient with less over-striding and morphs into mid-foot striking. Mid-foot strikers land on the balls of their feet first and then the heel will touch down to the ground before lifting off again. The ball of the foot catches the weight of the runner and the ankle brings the heel to touch down gently.
Since the forefoot contacts the ground first, the right mid-sole construction for your gait, weight, and style becomes more important than the heel construction. In these cases, a thick heeled running shoe with a deep drop is actually counterproductive. The thick heel will actually get in the way of your ball-of-the-foot-strike, making your landing feel flat-footed and catching the heel of the shoe on the ground in the process.
After assessing yourself as a runner, the next question is how will you use your running shoe? Are you shopping for a reliable training shoe to regularly run distance miles? Or are you looking for a lighter shoe for shorter distance speed work and perhaps race day use? Do you run trails?
A running shoe should feel snug when compared to other shoes, but not tight. Your feet should feel swaddled, but your circulation should not be cut off.
Make sure you factor in swelling and shop for shoes at the end of. day when your feet have swollen. Otherwise, you will find that your shoes will feel very tight, especially as the miles accumulate or if you like to run in the evenings.
You should be able to wiggle your toes freely. Your toes should not rub against the front of the toe-box while you are running, but should not be too far from it either.
If you push your foot all the way forward, being able to fit your thumb between your heel and the shoe is ideal.
Make sure to test both feet. Some people have slightly different foot sizes, so you want to cater to the comfort of the larger-sized foot.
How the toe-box is designed can be a factor in the right size.
Consider whether a shoe’s toe-off design is appropriate for you. Toe-off is the amount of curvature at the toe to aid the forward roll of the foot.
It sounds great, but some manufacturers shave materials off the sole under the outside toes believing it would help you roll into the next stride. Instead it makes your foot unstable at the point of rolloff or push-off.
You may be more susceptible to rolling your ankle or losing balance on unstable ground if the sole is thinner under the outside toes, especially if you are a supinator.
If you are a person who is susceptible to frequent ankle twists, then buying a shoe with stability features and less extreme toe-off will help lessen your risk of injury.
Running shoes are designed for forward movement, not lateral movement.
Wearing them for sports requiring agility like basketball or tennis is a bad idea. Not only can you roll an ankle , you will also destroy your running shoes, reducing the structural support they are designed to offer for running.
It is also a bad idea to wear running shoes for activities such as weight lifting. Certain exercises where you are standing on your feet such as squats or cleans require activating the small muscles in your feet to maintain balance and control during your lifting motion.
Your shoe not only needs to have a tread that will not slip on the type of surface you are weight lifting on, but should have a flat bottom with as little padding as possible, so your entire feet from heel to toe can feel the floor more directly.
This is so the small muscles in your feet can fine-tune their isometric contractions to control your balance while you are moving the weight.
Running shoes have padding throughout the sole, even zero drop shoes and racing flats. This mutes the feedback from your feet. It makes it more challenging for the small muscles in your feet to adjust for controlling your balance.
In addition, the higher your feet from the ground, the more likely your ankle can flex leading to an unstable twist or worse, like a knee injury.
Running shoes are made for forward motion and do not provide the lateral support of a court shoe such as basketball or tennis shoes made for lots of directional changes in agile sideway movements.
The shoe’s cushion is another decision point. Plush cushioning is best for high mileage training. Responsive cushioning is geared for faster training sessions or racing. Balanced cushioning works for both.
Again, the density and firmness/softness of the cushion should be matched to your weight and running style. Keep in mind the mattress analogy. You do not want a soft sole when you are a heavy runner.
A caution on drop which is the difference between heel and forefoot height. Shoes with less drop, that is a lower heel in relation to the forefoot, work better for more experienced, faster runners who land on their forefoot first.
If you opt for a low drop shoe, make sure you gradually increase the transition time or your achilles tendon and calves will be extremely sore. These muscles are invoked into activation more as they gently guide your heel down after forefoot landing.
Shoe size varies with manufacturers. It seems like everyone wants to dictate their own standards these days.
Many years ago, a certain size was a certain size with very little variability. Today, if you normally wear a size 10 from one manufacturer, you may find you need a 10.5 or 9.5 from others or even a size 11 from some.
Make sure you wear your running socks on your swollen feet when trying on shoes to find the correct size.
If you opt for custom or your own preferred inserts, try the shoes with them replacing the standard insert. Do not double up or you will find the shoe too tight.
When is it time to replace your old pair? There are a few indicators to watch.
If the midsole is compressed, it no longer provides the cushion and support you need. A simple test is to press down on the shoe on a flat, hard surface. Note if there is any compression and release, or note if there are any permanent wrinkles in the side of the mid-sole. If there are permanent wrinkles, it means the mid-sole is compressed and does not spring back to its original cushion.
If the soles of your shoes are so worn that they are lopsided, it is obviously time to buy new shoes.
Don’t wait until it is time to replace running shoes. Anticipate so there is time to gently break in a new pair while still using your old pair until end of its life. Your feet need to gradually adjust to a new pair for comfort before logging higher mileage runs.
Function vs. Fashion
If you are serious about running, do not pick a shoe based on fashion or even brand first.
Certain brands tend to make shoes catered to certain types of runners. For example, Nike’s technology traditionally works best for lighter runners, while Asics’ and Brooks’ technology tend to work better for heavier runners. Nike aligns its focus on supplying equipment to top performance athletes who are already fit and rely on lightweight equipment for performance. Asics and Brooks focus on stability and impact absorption which requires more materials and results in heavier shoes.
Narrow down your choices based purely on function first for your personal needs, then pick your preferred fashion.
Now you can make a more informed decision. What are the best running shoes for supination? What are the best shoes for overpronation? What are the best neutral running shoes? What are the best running shoes for high arches? What are the best running shoes for flat feet? What are the best cushioned running shoes? What are the best stability running shoes?