One bit of normalcy in the midst of all this corona-strangeness is my ability to lace up my shoes and go for a run. I haven’t been able to run to the lake as I normally would, but this has fortunately resulted in some new running routes that I probably will use even after the quarantine ends.
Gyms are closed and and while online workouts can be great, running may be an excellent addition to your new weekly routine. If you are interested in getting into running for the first time, or in ramping up your mileage, please check out the tips below.
BEFORE YOU GET STARTED: SHOES
You don’t need much to get started running. Fancy watches and cute fitness clothes are nice, but optional. Beyond an old pair of gym shorts and t-shirt, the only other requirements are a decent sports bra (depending on your body type) and a pair of shoes. I am frequently asked about the best styles and brands. But here is the real truth about the best running shoes: choose the ones that feel good on your feet. Simple as that. The latest research* tells us that the shoes most likely to keep your injury-free are those that are comfortable on your feet. (Aren’t our feet smart?)
Right now, it’s impossible to go to a store to try on a bunch of styles and sizes. Fortunately, Fleet Feet in Chicago has free returns on their shoes. If you can, buy several pairs and return the ones that don’t work!
If you already have a comfortable pair of running shoes, periodically check the bottoms for excessive wear and replace regularly. If your shoes have been regularly worn for more than a year, it’s time to get a new pair!
HOW TO GET STARTED
If you are just getting started with running, or haven’t run in a long time, the key to starting off well is to start slowly. Try walking for a minute and jogging for 30 seconds. If that feels good, do it a few more times. AND THEN STOP. Yes, stop. Your first day out, please don’t over-do it. I know it probably feels so good to move, but you can do it again tomorrow or the next day! There is no need to get a running start. Slowly ramp up the amount of time that you run.
If you want more guidance on how slowly or quickly to ramp up your distance, there are a ton of resources online (Couch to 5k is an example). Check out a few options and choose one that seems doable. There is no magic formula that works for everyone, though. After you try your pick for a few weeks, make any adjustments you need.
HOW TO KEEP UP THE HABIT AND TO MAKE RUNNING LESS BORING
Contrary to popular belief, habits don’t form magically after a certain amount of time. The reasons we keep up certain activities (or don’t keep them up) are varied and personal. (I know I personally could form a habit of eating a chocolate bar for breakfast in one day if I wanted to!) One way to help with habit formation is to appreciate the feeling that you get after a run - the feeling of satisfaction - and use that as motivation for future runs. Another way is to make running more interesting. Check out these suggestions:
Play frisbee or soccer with family members
Try the walk-run strategy that I mentioned in the how to get started section
Run in a different neighborhood or take a different route each day
Run with a buddy (via your headphones for social distancing)
I don’t want to give you the impression that everyone must cross train to prevent injuries. I also don’t want you to think that you will certainly not get a running injury if you do cross training. Many people whose only exercise is running never become injured. And many people who cross train like olympians do get injured. There are no guarantees. Running isn’t a risk free activity, even if the benefits almost alway outweigh the risks. However, from my clinical and personal running experience, I’d like to give some general advice as I’ve found cross training to be helpful!
First of all, if you've had a previous injury, and recovered with the help of some exercises, do what’s worked for you in the past. This could be a combination of foam rolling, strength exercises, and/ or stretching.
If you are new to running or cross training here are some tips:
Before running: try slow skipping, squats, or try this 10 minute running warm up
After running: do stretches for your legs - hamstring, calves, IT bands (I’ll make a video of some of these soon.)
While these are the exercises that help many runners, if you develop pain, these exercises alone are probably not enough. Dr. Tolga and I are here and happy to help! Through telehealth, we can watch you move and give you more customized exercises so that you can keep up with your fitness goals.
DO YOU NEED A MASK?
During the pandemic, the more precautions we take, the better when it comes to protecting ourselves and others. However, running with a mask can be challenging. To be safe, always bring your mask with you when you run - you don’t have to wear it when you don’t see anyone around, but put it on if you have to be within 6 feet of others. Remember, when taking on and off your mask, only touch the strings and wash your mask (and hands) after each use. It is currently understood that the coronavirus is spread through our breathing alone. We breathe more and harder when we exercise, so please be very respectful of others around you, especially older adults, who might not be able to move out of the way easily. Please see the CDC’s guidelines for more specific and updated recommendations (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cloth-face-cover.html).
MOST OF ALL
Enjoy your run.
*NIGG, BENNO M.; VIENNEAU, JORDYN; SMITH, AIMÉE C.; TRUDEAU, MATTHIEU B.; MOHR, MAURICE; NIGG, SANDRO R. The Preferred Movement Path Paradigm, Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: August 2017 - Volume 49 - Issue 8 - p 1641-1648