Running is set to become even more popular now that we are limited in where we can go to exercise.And while you are out in the fresh air, you still need to observe social distancing to protect yourself and the comm unity, so stay two metres from others at all times.
1 Running is a great way to stay fit - and it's cheap
Firstly, it's important to say that the benefits of running far outweigh the risks. These include metabolic fitness, aerobic fitness, body mass, cardiovascular function and personal well-being.
Unlike many other sports, running doesn't involve a huge financial undertaking. All you need is a pair of shoes.
2 Running can actually be helpful for joints
It's a commonly held belief that running can cause osteoarthritis. However, research consistently shows that running can be helpful for joints. In fact, recreational runners have less chance of developing hip and knee arthritis compared to sedentary individuals and non-runners. This supports the mantra "exercise is medicine" and running at the right volume and intensity, and not overdoing it, can be a positive way of protecting bone health.
3 Choose a comfortable running shoe
Running shoes receive a lot of interest as people always like to buy new ones. However, if you have a pair of comfortable running shoes there is no need to change brand or style. If you are buying your first shoe, make sure it is a running rather than a fashion shoe and is a good fit for your foot.
4 Start slow and build up your pace
Whether you're new to the sport or returning after a long break, it can be physically and mentally tough to get out the front door. It's important to start off at a distance and pace that suits you.
Often having a running partner or training group can be a good way to begin, but the pace and distance must feel right for you. If you start off too quickly or by running too far, you're at a greater risk of injury.
5 Running can be for everyone
Age, body weight and physique are not on their own reasons why you should avoid running. There is no specific age or body weight that is contra-indicated to running.
If you're starting off and are older, or overweight, it's recommended that you slowly build up your pace. Starting points can be a 100m walk, followed by 100m brisk walk, with a gradual progression to a 100m jog.
Reducing the rest in between each 100m or increasing the distance or pace can be signs of progression. Another method of monitoring your exercise intensity is by using the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale. If you have maintained the same distance or time but it feels like you are working less, that's progress.
6 Never underestimate the importance of stretching
There is some debate about the importance of stretching prior to exercise. Most runners incorporate some dynamic stretching to warm up the muscles prior to a run. This may include hurdles, lunges and leg swings front and side.
7 You should eat before you run
Eating is important to give you energy and fuel your muscles. The type of food and the amount can depend on your physique and your planned run. If you are eating a light snack, you should wait at least 30 minutes to two hours prior to a run. If you have eaten a large meal, the recommended wait before you run is between two and four hours. Following your run, be sure to re-fuel.
8 A running plan can help reduce risk
There is some injury risk with any form of exercise. Many soft tissue injuries (muscle and tendon) can occur due to a sharp increase or spike in your running distance, frequency or intensity. As a general rule, not increasing either of these factors by 10-20 per cent between running days is a good way of reducing injury risk. So, set up a running plan and stick to it. Doing less is preferred to overdoing it.
9 Targeted exercises can help build muscle strength for running
It is a good idea to try to keep your muscles strong and conditioned to run. Important muscles to work on include your abdominal, lower back, buttock and calf muscles. Exercises including a gluteal bridge, half plank, standing superman and seated calf raise are helpful examples of beneficial exercises for those starting to run. The number of times you complete will depend on your fitness and comfort levels.
10 Make sure to listen to your body
Listening to any niggles in your body is also important to remain injury-free.
At Beacon Hospital we have a Physiotherapy Department and Sports Laboratory full of highly skilled musculoskeletal physiotherapists and exercise physiologists who are experienced in treating a variety of running injuries.
We see a lot of runners who receive a unique programme based on a comprehensive assessment including VO2 max, isokinetic strength testing and orthotic prescription using gait scan analysis and 3D imaging. Furthermore, we liaise closely with a team of expert Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Consultants and can easily organise a referral onward to this team if necessary. But in general, if you feel any niggles it's important to not overdo it and to get things checked out if they persist or get worse.
Anthony Pierce and Ian Byrne are Senior Physiotherapists of Musculoskeletal Outpatients at Beacon Hospital