Running is such a fantastic way to increase your cardiovascular fitness, but how can you maximise your running experience without facing injury? Here at Foot Centre Group we have the knowledge and skills to get you to help you become a better runner. From choosing the right race/event to what type of socks to wear, we have what you need to get you to the finish line. If you are ready to become a better runner, we are here to empower you.
How to Train
First, Pick a Race
Whether you are a serious runner, or just looking to increase your fitness, We all know that working towards a goal is a fantastic motivator. There are plenty of local races around Melbourne and Victoria and many events cater for all running abilities. No one is judging you, get out there and give it a go! Below is a link where you can discover which race is right for you.
Beginners – If you have just started out and you’re looking to do your first race, we would recommend a local 5km to start with. There are a few events that take place around Albert Park Lake (For example the MS 5km), which is reasonably flat the whole way around. Great for a beginner to work up to. There are also many themed fun runs around Melbourne if you are looking for something a little lighter and less competitive.
Intermediate – So you’ve been running for a little while now, perhaps it’s time to tackle a 10km and maybe even get a PB! We recommend the more competitive races. Victorian Road Runners (VRR) hold time trials around The Royal Botanical Gardens on the first Saturday of every month – There is a 4km option and an 8km option. There is a challenging hill there too!
Experienced – For the seasoned runner we recommend a half marathon or perhaps even a full marathon! The Melbourne Marathon is a fantastic event as there are plenty of distances to choose from, 3km, 5km, 10km, 21.1km, 42.2km and 42.2km wheelchair! The event finishes right at the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Now this is a big one. Your running form can determine your running efficiency and therefore your pace, as well as determine your odds of getting injured. All our clinics at Foot Centre Group offer full running assessments! Our Podiatrists are equipped with the knowledge and skills to identify any biomechanical errors and help you improve your running technique. Our Podiatrists will assess your foot posture, your walking gait and of course your running gait. You will then be given some cues to work on to improve your running. Our Podiatrists will also provide you with a detailed plan and strength program to help you reach your goals, maximise recovery time and enjoy running.
Call us on 03 9553 0044 to book your extensive running assessment today.
Finding Your Ideal Running Form
The ideal running form will vary from athlete to athlete, as everyone’s biomechanics tend to differ slightly. While every person’s running style will vary, your podiatrist will be able to identify areas that may be improved, to get you to your best personal running style. Your Foot Centre Group Podiatrist will look at your running gait from side on, as well as from behind you to identify anything in your biomechanics that may be altered to increase your running efficiency. Your Podiatrist will also do specific tests to determine what areas’ need to be strengthened and improved to get you to your optimal running form.
What will your podiatrist be looking for during your running assessment?
At the level of the head, your Podiatrist will be looking at the position of your head to your shoulders. Is your gaze facing straight ahead? Do you have a head tilt? Is your head and body moving up and down drastically? Your podiatrist will be able to identify any errors and help you to adjust them.
Next on the checklist is the arms and shoulders. Recent research has shown that the arms can actually account for 5 – 10% of the movement of your centre of mass. This is important because your centre of mass (COM) can dictate your likelihood of becoming injured. Your arms are expected to glide past your body and move in the opposite direction to your leg on the same side of the body. This encourages an efficient and effective running technique.
Moving down the body to the core. The core is crucial as it is the stabilizer for all the extremities. Your podiatrist will be able to identify if you are switching on through your core or not, and will be able to give you cues to improve your core activation during running. Another thing your Podiatrist will look for is whether you tend to have a forward trunk lean or not. This can indicate weakness in the muscles and can be addressed in your strength programming.
The hips play a large role in your running technique. We expect to see the hips twisting slightly as we run. Your podiatrist will be able to identify any deficits in your glute strength by watching your hip movement – if your hips tend to drop on the side of the non-weight bearing limb, this can indicate a weakness in both gluteus maximus and gluteus medius.
The knees are often a common cause of injury when it comes to running. Your podiatrist will ensure that your knee joint is tracking over your ankle joint and facing the same direction as your toes (usually straight ahead). In some cases, the knees turn in, this can be detrimental to a runner and put you at risk of injury.
The feet (our favourite part of the running assessment!) are the fundamentals of your biomechanics and in our opinion, the most important part of the assessment. The reason for this is that the biomechanics of the feet can dictate the alignment of the entire body. A foot that rolls in too much (or over pronates) can place further stress on the other joints of the body (Ie. Knees). A small amount of pronation is necessary when running, as it acts just like a spring to propel you. When referring to runners, you may be either a heel, midfoot or forefoot striker. There really is no normal when it comes to running technique, but your Podiatrist may provide you with certain cues or tips to improve your efficiency and reduce your risk of injury.
The Run-Walk Method
So what exactly is the run-walk method? The walk-run method is a strategy designed to help beginners improve their cardiovascular fitness and endurance. The method has been said to help manage fatigue and stamina as well as avoiding injury. A common risk factor for running injuries is doing “too much too soon” which refers to a sudden increase in intensity, duration or frequency of running. Therefore the run-walk method is a good solution when it comes to avoiding injury. Our recommendation for the run-walk method is to stick with your individual fitness level. If you are new to running, try running for 2 – 5 minutes and then walk for 1 – 2 minutes. Your running periods should be comfortable, and not too exhausting. Ensure that you are allowing the body to fully recover during the walking phase before you begin running again. The run-Walk method will also assist to improve your breathing, by gradually improving your cardiovascular fitness.
Choose a Training Plan
At Foot Centre Group we are committed to providing you with the best possible outcomes and solutions to reaching your running goals. After your running gait has been assessed, we can provide you with a training plan to get started or back to running post injury. Your training plan will be specific to;
- Your cardiovascular fitness level
- Your personal goals
- Your current/past injuries
- Your biomechanics
- Your lower limb strength
An individualized training plan is paramount for avoiding injury, as well as for reaching peak performance just in time for race day. Most running plans are based around a 4 week cyclic program – Usually the programs go for 12 – 16 weeks. Generally training programs will include
Is stretching even relevant anymore? For a long time, the benefits of stretching have been debated. Let’s start with types of stretching;
- Static stretching – This refers to stretches that are held statically (no movement) for 20-30 seconds. For a long time, static stretches have been recommended for pre-exercise to increase flexibility and therefore decrease risk of injury.
- Ballistic stretching – Ballistic stretches are those which force the muscle out of their usual range of motion by bouncing the stretch. Ballistic stretches have long been identified as not useful and likely to cause injury.
- Dynamic stretching – Dynamic stretches are those which gradually increase the range of motion and speed of a body part. Dynamic stretching is aimed at increasing dynamic flexibility and is said to be beneficial for pre-exercise warm up.
Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation is not so much a type of stretching, but a technique used to gently increase the range of a muscle through a strategy of hold and relax. When repeated, the muscle should be able to be pushed further than the original hold.
Recent research has shown that static stretching prior to exercise does not decrease your risk of injury like once thought. The recent research supports dynamic warm ups to ensure the body is ready for the particular type of exercise you are engaging in. So for runners, some gentle straight leg swings, bent knee side swings, bent knee forward swings and side lunges. Ask your podiatrist for more tips on dynamic stretching.
While static stretching BEFORE you exercise is not going to reduce your risk of injury, it is still said to be beneficial for increasing mobility and flexibility in the long term, so we recommend stretching regularly, even daily if possible. Foam rolling has also been shown to improve circulation, mobility and flexibility of muscles, so we recommend you throw that into your daily routine too.
Pick Your Gear
Choose a Shoe
Your running shoe could very well be the most important piece of equipment you invest in when it comes to your running. Your shoe choice should be dependent on factors such as; your foot posture, your biomechanics, your chosen running event and the type of running surfaces you are on. Your Podiatrist can make specific recommendations as to which shoes are the best fit for you and your particular event. Some brands we recommend include Asics, Brooks, New Balance, Mizuno and ON. All of these brands have styles designed specifically for running and will provide your feet and ankles with adequate support while you reach all your running goals. We recommend that you update your running shoes every 700km or 6 -12 months, as the more worn the shoes are, the more likely you are to become injured.
We always recommend that you get your shoes fitted by a professional and try to avoid buying your shoes online, as you cannot be sure that they will be the right fit for you.
Are there socks designed especially for runners? The answer is yes, there are many different types of socks we would recommend for runners. As we know, long distance runners can be prone to blistering, therefore there has been a sock developed to combat this. Blisters occur due to friction on the skin. The Wright Socks have a dual layer so that the friction occurs to the sock and not to the skin. There are also socks that boast fabric that keeps the skin cool and dry, as well as compression to encourage circulation.
Choose Your Playlist
Everyone knows the better the playlist the better the run, so what playlist would motivate you to run your best?
A tip when choosing your playlist, take your cadence into consideration. What even is your cadence? If you have a smart watch (or timing device) which records your running stats, you may have come across this before. Your cadence is the amount of strides taken per minute. Generally, elite runners aim for a cadence of 180 – this is considered ideal, but everyone’s ideal cadence will differ slightly. If you have a cadence of around 180, you will have minimal ground reaction time, which in turn reduces your risk of injury. The higher your ground reaction time, the more likely you are to experience injury. So, pick a song with a fast and steady beat and this will help you stick to that cadence.
When it comes to goal setting success, a timing device is absolutely essential. All of the devices will track your run using GPS, so you will know what distance you have covered. They will also time your run. Most watches in modern times will record your running stats, for example; your cadence, stride length, average pace per kilometre, average speed and average heart rate. Usually all of this information is connected by an app, so you can revisit your running statistics when you finish.
Particular features to look for will depend on your chosen event, but most watches have the basic necessities. There are many different brands that are useful for running, however, the Garmin is the ultimate activity tracker for runners.
Okay, so it’s the week before your event, what considerations should you be putting into hydration? A lot actually. Water is crucial for many bodily functions, including regulation of temperature, removing waste and providing energy to our cells. We know that sweating while exercising leads to loss of electrolytes and can lead to dehydration and reduced recovery periods.
It is recommended that an adult drink 2L of water per day, and with exercise (and water loss through sweat) it is recommended that you consume another 1.5 times the fluid lost during exercise. For race day you need to ensure that you are hydrating before and after your race. Our best tips to increase hydration for race day;
- Sip water on a regular basis
- Avoid alcohol for the week leading to your event
- Consume fruits and vegetables for further fluids
Recovery and injury prevention
We already know recovery is crucial when training for anything, so what should your recovery plan look like? Here are some of our best recovery tips;
- Rest – In order to allow your muscles to fully recover post run, you need to allow adequate rest between sessions. We recommend having one day off between runs, this will give your muscles the time they need to fully recover before stressing them again. Try running Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
- Sleep – Sleep is crucial for recovery as this is when your muscles are repairing themselves. You should be aiming for 6 – 8 hours of sleep per night for maximum recovery.
- Protein intake – Protein is a macronutrient, which means the body requires it for energy. Protein is responsible for muscle repair and recovery, so you need to ensure your individual protein needs are met.
- Ice – Ice bathing or a gentle walk in the cold ocean can help to reduce inflammation in the muscles, which in turn helps to prevent tissue breakdown and muscle soreness.
There are many factors that come into injury prevention, but inadequate recovery is a major contributor, so make sure you are taking all the right steps to take care of your body.
If you are considering getting into running or perhaps you are recovering from an injury and need some advice to get you back to running, we can assist you here at Foot Centre Group. Our Podiatrists can provide a foot posture analysis, running assessment, stretch and strengthening program, back to running program and a treatment plan to get you back on your feet. Call us on 03 9553 0044 to book your running assessment now.