Cold weather and short days can play havoc with even the most accomplished runner. Add the holiday cheer and if you are like a lot of people, your running may have taken a vacation and left you at home. With spring just around the corner its time to jump start your running.
Taking more than two weeks off will impact your cardiovascular and physical fitness. One mistake many runners make after taking extended time off is picking up right where they left off and building their mileage too quickly. This can often times lead to injury and burn out. Ease back into running and enjoy the process. When I start back or need a break I leave my watch and music at home and just enjoy taking an easy stroll through nature. I am surprised at how much enjoyment I have been missing when I wasn’t focused on my watch or music.
Hit the Road
Once you are back on the road, track or treadmill, patience is key. First, shorten your stride from what you normally would do. This will help you ease back into running and will place less stress on your muscles. If you run in a hilly area, short strides work perfectly to help you tackle those tough hills.
Second, foot placement is very important. Try and land on the midsole of your foot. This is most efficient and provides you a wider platform than your heel. This will help your body more easily dissipate the impact from running.
Third, it’s OK to take walk breaks. Run until you get fatigued and take thirty to sixty seconds to walk then run again. On your next run, try and extend your long run without walking a little further and so on. Before long you will rack up the miles and will need to walk less and less.
Stretching for Flexibility
Starting any physical activity without proper preparation can lead to injury. One of the best things you can do is become more flexible. The first way is to adopt a stretching routine that focuses on your core and the particular muscles groups you will be working. If you are running, your legs will be your primary objective where if you are swimming you will want to focus on your back, chest and arms. You can never go wrong with a stretching routine that embraces all muscle groups. Two good resources to help you with stretching are www.sportsinjuryclinic.net/rehabilitation-exercises/stretching-exerices and Delavier’s Stretching Anatomy that can be purchased on Amazon.com.
When I started running I was not a fan of stretching and thus greatly limited my performance. I recommend a 5-10 minute warm up such as a brief walk. Once completed with your run is the perfect time to stretch. You always want to stretch warm muscles. Work on stretching your calves, quads, hamstrings and hips. Be sure to be slow and deliberate and don’t force your stretch. Today I stretch several times a day when I have a few moments following exercise, while watching TV or over lunch.
A second way to improve flexibility is by doing yoga. Unfortunately many people have a misconception that to perform yoga one must already be extremely flexible. Yoga is for everyone and is an excellent activity to increase ones flexibility. There are numerous DVD’s available in the sporting goods section of local stores on online. I also recommend www.yogaforbeginners.com. Many health clubs also offer yoga classes.
If you are looking for a good plan to begin a running routine, try the Couch to 5K plan (www.c25k.com). This plan is designed to prepare anyone to move from the couch to running a 5k or 30 minutes in 9 weeks. It is also a great way to ease back into running after a long absence. There is also a smart phone application as well. My wife May started with the Couch to 5K plan in mid-2012 and she just completed her first half marathon in January! It works, give it a try!
Following these steps will give you a well-rounded start to your fitness and will keep you healthy and injury free. I hope to see you on a run in the near future.
Here is to being fit for a lifetime!
Chris is a Certified Personal Trainer and exercise and endurance enthusiast. He competes yearly in numerous running races, marathons, ultra marathons, triathlons and other endurance events.