Due to the outbreak if Coronavirus people across the country are not able to use their usual methods to keep fit such as visiting the gym, training in a class, or even playing in a sports team and consequently there has been a huge uptake in people running. This blog will focus on the benefits of running, and how to try to avoid injuring yourself.
Running has always been recognised as having an array of benefits, particularly for the health of your heart, as it can reduce resting blood pressure which lowers the likelihood of becoming ‘hypertensive’. Running also increases the size of your heart (cardiac hypertrophy) which means your heart can pump more blood around the body with each beat- this in turn lowers your resting heart rate.
As running burns through calories quite quickly, doing it regularly encourages weight loss which reduces BMI (Body Mass Index) Score. Following on from this, runners also have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to non runners.
As with any form of exercise, running is fantastic for supporting our mental health. A few 30 minute runs a week can raise our mood, improve our self esteem, reduce risk of dementia and lower our stress levels.
When people begin to run more often and over longer distances, the body adapts in order to become more efficient during exercise. One of the main ways it does this is by enhancing the blood flow to the muscles, which makes it easier for the body to continue to work over a longer period of time. It does this by increasing the number of capillaries in the muscles that are used during running (mainly the quadriceps, glutes and calves), so more blood can be used in these tissues during exercise. As people continue to run more often, there is also an increase in the amount of blood flowing through the body, so more oxygen can be carried around during exercise and at rest, which improves our aerobic capacity. In addition, the body becomes more effective at redistributing blood flow from areas that are inactive during running so again, you can become more efficient and tire less easily. As a result of these physiological adaptations, running is a fantastic way to maintain or improve fitness, particularly for footballers, rugby players or any athlete that depends on cardiovascular endurance or lower limb muscular endurance.
During aerobic events (such as running) type 1 muscle fibres are recruited within the muscles as these fibres are brilliant for endurance when compared with type 2 fibres. Type 2 fibres tend to be used during quick and explosive events. Because of this, the more we run, these type 1 muscle fibres grow in size and there also appears to be a small increase in the percentage of type 1 fibres compared to type 2. These effects will mostly occur in the legs during running. But what does this mean? This enhances the ability of the muscles, in the legs, to repeatedly and forcibly contract over a long period of time, thus, making it easier to run for longer, and with better form.
How to reduce the risk of injury!
As with any form of exercise, there is always a risk of injury, but I hope I’ve convinced you that running is well worth it due to the benefits! However, there’s a lot that you can do which mitigates the risk of having an injury, meaning you can continue to run and stay fit! Here are my 5 tips
- START OFF STEADY. Often whenever we start something new, particularly something as easy to do as running, we often go out all guns blazing! This can be running too quick, increasing the mileage too fast or not allowing our body time to recover. This can result in a range of soft tissue injuries such as tendinopathies, strains and sprains. So to help avoid these, I’d recommend always leaving at least one or two rest days between runs when you first start, allowing the body adequate time to recover. In the running world, runners tend to follow the 10% rule, which is to never increase the amount of mileage per week by 10% from the previous week, as this allows for a gradual increase in training level, giving the body time to adapt and recover.
- ENSURE YOU HAVE GOOD RUNNING SHOES. A good pair of running shoes won’t only improve your performance but they can reduce the chance of getting injured. You should avoid a flat soled shoe as this provides no support for your foot. Ideally, a runner should have a comfortable pair of trainers that are good at absorbing shock and also have a decent bit of grip for those runs on wet days. Custom fit running insoles are also really useful to reduce the risk of injury. These insoles are moulded to your feet, which provides sufficient support and helps to maintain a good foot posture. I have done another blog on insoles that you can find on the Bradley Physio Website for more information.
- WARM UP. You will never see a professional sports team play without warming up, so why do we not warm up before running? Warm ups have been shown to massively reduce the occurrence of muscular injuries. A good warm up will involve a pulse raising activity, some dynamic stretching and a few exercises to activate your muscles. This will start to get more blood and oxygen flowing around the body, increase the temperature of your muscles, and take your joints through ranges, similar to what they will go through when running.
- DIET. When running its key to pay attention to your diet. Ensuring you’re well hydrated before a run will not only improve performance but it will help to prevent things such as heat stroke if you’re running on a hot day. Making sure you’re consuming a balanced diet will help to maintain your energy stores which will improve performance. When you have completed your run ( and cool down!), it is worth rehydrating by consuming more water and also taking on board some protein to aid muscle repair.
- RUNNING FORM. Ensuring that your running with the correct technique will help to improve your running ability and again reduce the risk of injuries uch as joint pain or muscle strains.Here is a link to a video to help explain this. https://youtu.be/brFHyOtTwH4
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