A lot of us put fitness on hold as we stayed #safeathome. If you’re ready to get back out there or get started training for a charity walk or run, Jeremy Yuen, running specialist and doctor of physical therapy at Core Physical Therapy, has tips for hitting the pavement or treadmill.
“This is actually a runner’s paradise right now,” Yuen said of the quarantine situation. “It’s pretty open, not high-trafficked right now.”
Whether you want to train for an event or get active on your own, it’s wise to start slowly.
Checkpoints to Meet
Yuen warns that his get-started plan might not sound appealing, but it is a good way to gauge your readiness for running and help you avoid injury.
“It’s going to start out boring and you’re not going to enjoy it,” he warned.
- Start by walking 30-45 minutes without stopping. Do that 3 or 4 times in a week. If your knees, feet, or body are sore, you aren’t ready to run. The good news is, you know what to work on.
- Once you can do your walks, you’re ready to start a running program. Yuen suggests 10-minute interval training. Walk 4 minutes, run for 1 minute. Repeat for 10 minutes. Do that 3 or 4 times.
- Step 3 is to add more running time. Walk 3 minutes, run 2 minutes. Do that a couple times. Next time out, walk 2 minutes, run 3 minutes. Keep adding on until you can run for 10 minutes straight for 4 sessions.
- Now you’re ready to start running for distance. First goal is one mile. You’re probably just about there. Most people can run a mile in about 10 minutes.
Pain vs. Discomfort
When you head out for your practice sessions, lace up your running shoes and watch for pain. It’s OK to have some discomfort and maybe a little bit of annoying pain. If it’s a pain that stops you from running, walk it out for 4 or 5 minutes, then try running again. If that feels fine, you just needed a little break. Still feeling pain? Stop running for the day. See a physical therapist about any pains you feel consistently on your runs.
“Most people can tell if they need a break and if no one’s watching, they’ll take it,” Yuen said.
Listen to your body and take that breather when you need it.
He adds that any runner will tell you there’s a part of their run that they hate. That makes them want to stop. Sometimes you just need to power through to get over that hump. Powering through uncomfortable is fine. Running through pain is not.
Before you head out, warm up with some dynamic activity that starts getting your heart rate up a bit. High knee walking, shuffling side to side, or an easy jog are good starting points. If you’re not sure what to do, skip for 5 minutes, Yuen suggests. Check your heart rate. If it’s going up, you’re doing it right.
Running can be tough on the body and can lead to knee and foot problems. Your body will naturally cheat where it can, resulting in poor form, which will lead to pain. Many physical therapy clinics will offer an assessment. Take advantage of those, Yuen suggests. Spending 20 minutes learning where your body adapts will be worth the time.
After your run, stretch calves, hamstrings, hip flexors, abductors. Remember, running is a full-body activity, so stretch out your back and shoulders as well.
If you find yourself sore a day or two after your run, that’s the lactic acid built up in your body. The best way to get it moving is to do some light physical activity. Go for a walk, light jog, or do yoga.
How to Find the Perfect Shoe
Yuen said he’s commonly asked which shoes to buy, but there’s no one best brand. Most running shoe stores will let you take a pair for a test run on the sidewalk or an in-store treadmill. Yuen says five minutes in them will tell you what you need to know.
He said the best shoe is “The one you try on and think, ‘I don’t hate it.’”