How to Keep Running Longer, Farther and Stronger!
Are you a runner that wants to keep running for as long as possible?! This one is for you!!
Courtney here with some quick tips on how to keep running longer, even as you age!
I have a lot of runners that come in that truly enjoy running. That being said, something has led them to seek out the help of a physiotherapist, and their running schedule is usually on hold while they manage their current issue or injury. This will often bring up a touchy subject, especially in my individuals in their 40s and 50s. “Should I be avoiding running due to the strain it is causing on my body?”
I am never one to jump to this conclusion. Don’t get me wrong, if you are the type that is injured more than you’re healthy, your runs are making you sore and you are no longer enjoying running because of the pain, we may be having a conversation about frequency, duration, and speed of your run.
That being said, my 1st step (step …. Get it?) would be to implement these following strategies to see if we can keep you running and keep you healthy and injury free at the same time.
I’ve teamed up with Erin Kesler today, a pedorthist at the Foot-Knee-Back Clinic, to attack this topic from all directions. Erin deals with runners day in and day out, and she also has a goal of keeping those individuals running as long as possible. Erin’s knowledge of the lower limb, specialized foot wear and orthotic make her an excellent addition to our team of practitioners at The Foot-Knee-Back that all have a common goal of getting you and keeping you moving!
Together, we have come up with 4 things to keep in mind to be a successful runner!
Courtney’s Tip: Don’t Forget The Warm Up and Cool Down
It is essential to warm up for your run. This means starting with dynamic stretches such as leg swings, side steps, lunges, butt kicks and high knees. This will start to loosen up those muscles, bring blood flow to the muscles and help prep them for the run. As we age, our muscles become more rigid, this can increase the likelihood of injury. You may also want to start out at a slower pace to allow the body to ramp up for the run. This is so important because as we age, our body doesn’t heal quite as quickly. That being said, simply avoiding injury to begin with would be your best approach.
Don’t forget the cool down! Start with simply bringing your run down to a walk. This allows our heart rate to come back down to a resting pace. From there, we want to think about caring for the muscles and the joints that just got us through that run. We can now perform some static stretching. After our muscles perform work, they will tighten up as they repair themselves. We want to ensure that they don’t tighten up too much and that’s where the stretching comes in. If we don’t stretch after our run and we simply allow those muscles to tighten up over the course of the day, this will add undue stress through our joints which can lead to pain.
Erin’s Tip: Always Wear Proper Footwear
Let’s start with the basics of a quality running shoe, and what you should be looking for. When I am educating my patients on the best features for their needs, there are three points that remain constant.
The heel counter on the shoe must be firm. This is the part of the shoe that cradles your heel, and helps to minimize movement whilst in motion. When you pinch the heel with your hand, the place that your heel sits should not have any give to it. It should resist your movement.
The base of the shoe should have minimal movement to it when gently twisted from side to side. This provides stability for differing types of terrain, and protects our feet from overworking on uneven ground.
The front of the shoe should have a slight rocker to it. When placed on a flat surface, you can press one finger on the tip of the shoe, and it “rocks” forward. This helps guide our foot forward, and promotes a gait pattern that sends us off our big toe to propel.
When these features are present, you have a great starting point for performance and comfort, with minimal pain.
One of my favourite tips for runners is to suggest owning two pairs of the same shoe. I know that this isn’t always in the budget, but I suggest this because there is so much biomechanical research that goes in to a higher end running shoe.
The way cushioning in a shoe rebounds after a long run, differs on the type of cushioning it contains, whether it is gel, or foam, but what remains the same is that a shoe takes about 24 hours between wears to fully regenerate its cushioning.
If you think about it, a nurse who wears a shoe for a 12 hour shift, then goes home and sleeps for 8, and heads back into work for another 12 hour shift, only has let their shoe “plump” back up for 8 or so hours.
The next day the shoe is worn, they have only 50% cushioning back, so they aren't performing at their full potential! Now imagine a runner who has pounded on a shoe for 10-15 kms every day for a week, the same principle applies. Alternating shoes each day will help with that feeling of cushioning and give a little extra “spring” in our steps, and help them last longer.
You can always cross those fingers for a good BOGO sale!
Courtney’s Tip: Stay Strong in Addition to Running
Staying strong, especially through your lower limbs will help prevent injury and prevent pain. An easy way to do this would be to swap a run day for a strength day. This would be a Win-Win really as you will take a break from repetitive stress of running and also build up some muscles which will help you in the next run. The additional strength will help protect your joints from the repetitive forces as the muscles will be able to take some of the brunt of the loads. For more specialized exercises, your physiotherapist can do an assessment to find which muscles are weak and vulnerable, and design a program that would be helpful for you.
Erin’s Tip: Seek Help When Needed
I often see runners after they have tried to fix some of their pain on their own, or have previously consulted a physiotherapist, but haven't had lasting results. First they replace their shoes, then they switch up their run. When it comes to pain in the lower part of your leg or specifically in your foot, it’s a good idea to get a biomechanical assessment done on your gait and ranges of motion to see if there are any mechanical abnormalities.
When I do these assessments I can see where your limitations are, and where you are compensating. I can see if your calves are tight, if your shoes need replacing, or if you need to be switched to a different model or brand of footwear that address different areas of support. Sometimes, Custom Made Orthotics are necessary to correct an issue with your structures themselves, so your compensations don’t become a habit and cause compounding issues.
Courtney and Erin both have loads of knowledge that can be helpful on this topic! For more information, feel free to comment or reach out to us!