When you’re first starting out, running can feel so hard. Your legs burn, it’s hard to breathe and all you can think about is stopping. But Mark Anderson running enthusiast and Physical Therapist from Mountain Land Physical Therapy says running can be fun, instead of a dreaded daily chore.
1. Brighten it up
There is nothing more exciting than something new, and this is no different with running shoes or equipment. With all the new and exciting shoes that are being research and introduced to the running community, this is a good time to take advantage of some new shiny running shoes. This may mean trying a new brand or style; best rule of thumb, go with what is comfortable FIRST and hopefully something that looks good too.
The advent of the minimalist shoe has breathed new questions into the running research as to their value to a runner’s health, injury prevention, and shoe rotation. Studies show that running with a minimalist shoe for shorter runs can increase step cadence and improve running mechanics that reduced load on structures of the knee. There is also value with increase in arch and lower extremity strength. If you choose to do this take it slow with fewer miles to start, and with time gradually increase the distance.
2. Get Competitive
Motivation to get out in those early hours of the morning or after a long day of work is oftentimes easier if you have someone or something waiting for you. Run with a partner or fun app on your phone. These can provide just the right amount of assistance to start a running routine and transition that into a good, unbreakable, habit after time. These “helps” can increase your speed and/or distance as you challenge each other and encourage each other to reach those goals. Some ideas for partners is to run with someone who is faster than your average minute per mile pace and work to match their speed, or an app such as “Nike+ Running” that charts your runs, minutes per mile, distances, syncs to your music play list, and even will give you a reminder to get out and run.
3. Change of Scenery
If you are pounding the pavement every day to get your runs in and feel that maybe you are in a slump, you might be. Getting out on a trail is a fun way to mix up your running mechanics, running on hills and/or trails typically shortens your step length and reduces the impact forces that can cause damage or irritation to anterior knees and feet. This change of mechanics will challenge the muscles as they take the natural appropriate load with running, causing fatigue and muscle soreness that will bring back the fun of running and the challenge that may have motivated you in the early running years.
Also don’t forget to run while on vacation. It is easy not to pack your running gear, because “hey I am on vacation”, but those opportunities to see new and exciting sights from the ground or road level are not be missed. Plus with the more sitting and eating that accompany vacations, a nice long run in your now spare vacation time would help justify some of those extra desserts.
4. Join a Running Club
Running clubs can be fun if you are interested in organized and frequent opportunities to meet people in your community that have a similar passion for running, as well as help commit and stay motivated to run on a regular basis. Running clubs are dedicated to support local runners of all experience levels meet their fitness goals. Although running is their primary goal it is encouraged that their members network with each other for personal and professional development. It is not uncommon for running groups to have weekly distance runs or clinics that are open to the public. Some groups that might be of interest in the Salt Lake area are:
Salt Lake Running Club and
Wasatch Running Club
5. Try a Track Run
Time spent on a track can be helpful for speed workouts, but can also provide fun recourses to take advantage of other key strengthening and stability work. Sprinting the straight a ways on the a track and jogging or walking the turns can help strengthen key gluteal muscles and encourage added muscle fiber growth in the legs to help increase the speed during your longer runs. Do this for a weekly workout covering 2-3 miles at a time and you will be picking up your speed in no time. Using bleacher stairs or benches for strengthening exercises can provide obstacles for balance, wind sprints up stairs, single leg squats or heel touches, and bleacher jumps. Shoot for 4×10 reps or for 3 minutes straight of each exercise and feel your hip, buttock, and quadriceps muscles burn with added strength that have been proven to help prevent injury in runners.
Other areas to enjoy outside is the grassy areas that provide new terrain not only for running to strengthen ankles, but also a place to drop and “give me 20”, core push-ups that is. Work in this area can target key core muscles that contribute to efficient running, such as the transverse abdominis which is the deepest core muscle of our abdominal region. One helpful exercise that incorporates multiple muscle groups is the push up to side plank with added hip abduction, do these in sets of 10 and challenge yourself to do more sets each time.
The joy of running can come from the races we participate in or simply the goals we work on every day, but this joy can be complemented with a variety to your work out to keep you engaged in your runs and take them to the next level. Don’t forget to have some fun and reward yourself in some way as old goals are met and new ones are conquered.
If you would like to meet with a running expert and be part of a running assessment using video analysis, please find us on the web at mlrehab.com/run.
Mark D. Anderson, PT
Mountain Land Physical Therapy, Holladay