10 practical tips for a safe return to running
Have you chosen to take up running to stay in shape, lose weight or simply feel better? Here are a few practical tips for running safely and taking full advantage of your long (or short) outdoor training sessions!
1/ Got a nagging injury? Take care of it!
All injuries require special attention from your physiotherapist or other qualified professional. Generally, minor injuries can drag on longer or become aggravated; they can even put you at higher risk of a fresh injury.
If you are injured, avoid taking a full rest; instead, choose a substitute activity such as cycling or pool running.
2/ What are your goals?
Before setting off again, it’s important to create personal goals that are both realistic and motivating. Are you training for a specific race? Do you run simply for pleasure?
This process will help guide you in determining the frequency, intensity, duration, and evolution of your training.
3/ Warm-ups: preparing your body for the workout ahead
Warming up before you start training is crucially important, as it properly prepares your muscles and joints for the workout. This phase also helps prevent injury and improve overall performance.
Warm-ups should last about 15 minutes, and should include gradual jogging as well as ballistic stretching.
4/ Footwear: making the right choice
Your footwear has a direct impact on your running gait. As a result, a drastic change may result in injury. For higher performance purposes, minimalist shoes that promote forefoot attack may be a desirable choice, as they are generally much lighter and thus require you to expend less energy.
However, if you have never been injured, there is no benefit to making changes unless your footwear becomes old or worn down.
5/ Improving your runs
Overuse injuries, which are frequent among runners, occur mainly due to overloading of anatomical structures like muscles, tendons, and bones.
To avoid undue stress on your body, make sure you are gradually increasing the volume, distance, and speed of your runs.
6/ Minimizing impact forces: a more efficient way to run
An effective way to minimize ground impact force and reduce the risk of injury is to increase your cadence to approximately 180 steps/minute.
Running barefoot or wearing minimalist footwear (which is thinner and lighter) also decreases ground impact and provides better protection from injury by solidifying the structures of the foot.
7/ Running surfaces
Harder, more homogeneous surfaces (roads or treadmills) requires good control of absorption mechanisms.
For their part, softer and more irregular surfaces (such as cross-country trails) require additional lower-body stability, and may increase the risk of traumatic injury.
8/ Keeping it simple
Be safe and respect your body’s limitations. Pain is the first sign that anatomical structures are tiring.
9/ Cooling down: a must!
A crucial but often overlooked phase, the cooldown enables better recovery and a decreased risk of late-onset muscle pain.
There is no evidence to support the use of massage or contrast/whirlpool baths. Instead, opt for an active (fast walking, light jogging, dynamic movement) 15-minute cooldown period.
Given the effort you will expend, proper nutrition is critical to ensuring you have the energy and endurance to perform at a high level and recover well after training. Before your workout, choose carbohydrate-rich foods (fruit/vegetables, grain products) and make sure you are well-hydrated (350-700 ml of water).
As soon as possible after your run, eat 3-4 servings of carbs and 1-2 servings of protein, and remember to rehydrate as much as you can.
Dubois, Blaise, SC. 10 conseils généraux essentiels dans la prévention des blessures en course à pied, www.lacliniqueducoureur.ca, 5 avril 2017
Dubois, Blaise, SC. Bibliothèque virtuelle: Conseil de la semaine, www.lacliniqueducoureur.ca, 5 avril 2017
Fréchette, Martin Dt.P. M.Sc. Nutrition sportive, Notes de cours PHT- 6014: Traumatologie sportive, Université de Montréal, 2016
Gervais-Hupé, Jonathan, Pht, FMAPT cert. physio sport. Les blessures en course à pied, Notes de cours PHT-6014 : Traumatologie sportive, Université de Montréal, 2016