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Preparing to run: top tips from a sports physiotherapist

Every runner has to start somewhere. Whether you’re a newcomer, are returning to running after injury, or are taking on a longer distance than you have previously run, take a few simple pieces of advice on board to get the most out of your running programme.

Here, experienced sports physiotherapist Chris Wilson gives us his top tips.

Preparing for your run or race

  • Appropriate & comfortable trainers

We advise against changing the type of training shoe significantly before your run, but it is important to ensure that the shoes are suitable for running and are most importantly, comfortable. Your sports physiotherapist can advise on the best type of running shoe if you are unsure.

  • Build up gradually

Doing too much too quickly puts you at risk of injury. The temptation is to build up to the target distance – for example, 10K – far too quickly. Gradually increasing the distance over a period of weeks is much more conducive to success. Start on relatively flat terrain and then introduce hill runs over time. This allows you to adjust to a variety of surfaces too.

  • Integrate a de-load week

There is a common misconception that when training for a specific distance it’s best to reach the target mileage and hold it steady for many weeks. However, a scheduled reduction in the intensity of the programme helps to restore the body and avoid injury due to overtraining. Experienced runners report an improvement in performance in the weeks preceding a de-load week (where mileage is reduced).

  • Train at the right intensity ratio

Not every run in your programme needs to be fast. In fact research shows that runners’ performance and fitness levels improve most by following an 80:20 approach. That translates to approximately 80% of activity at low intensity and 20% at moderate and high intensity. At low intensity, you can breathe comfortably and hold a conversation. At moderate intensity you should be able to speak in short sentences and at high intensity you’re breathing as hard as you can after a few minutes of running.

  • Avoid the pitfalls of the “too much too soon approach”

Especially if you are a novice runner or are returning to running after injury. Don’t make the common mistake of registering for every race you come across without giving yourself time to rest and recover. Best case you could get burned out and lose interest in running, but worst case this could end in injury/injury re-occurrence. See our blog on the most common running injuries and how a sports physio can help.

  • Utilise sports massage

It can be integrated into your running programme to aid recovery between runs. There are many benefits of sports massage – reduce aches and pains, reduce muscle tension and soreness, assist injury rehabilitation, recovery and prevention and assist the injury healing process. Find out more about sports massage at our sports injury clinic.

  • Fuel your body

Eat appropriately to fuel the body for running. Runners need carbohydrates but should make healthy choices by picking whole foods that include grains, fruits, vegetables and lean protein. Sports nutritionists agree on the same piece of advice, eat more fruits and vegetables – every single day – they provide essential vitamins and minerals. Meeting your nutritional needs will enable you to maximise your running performance.

  • Complement with strength work

And see your race times improve and your injury risk reduce. Supplementing running with strength training exercises will not only strengthen the muscles and joints, but will improve flexibility, balance and mobility. Focusing on different body parts on different days e.g. a leg day, and an upper body day, will also give your body the necessary time to recover. You can also integrate cross-training – like swimming or cycling – into your routine to build strength and flexibility, which will ultimately give you improved strength endurance. If you want to become a better runner, run farther and faster without injury, then strength train.

  • Pay attention to aches and pains

Get niggles assessed by a sports physiotherapist. In some cases, simply slowing down, or changing the surface you are running on will be enough to make a difference. If something hurts so badly that you can’t walk properly on it, then don’t run on it. You risk irritating the injury further, which could ultimately mean longer recovery times and a more complex treatment plan. If in doubt consult your physiotherapist for advice on getting your running programme back on track asap.

And post-run recovery…

  • Re-fuel

Replace lost fluids and eat well. It’s not rocket science. Many runners underestimate how much fluid is lost during runs and don’t replace this fluid efficiently enough. If you feel thirsty it is likely you need to drink! In terms of eating after a run, most nutritionists advise that food intake during the 30-90 minute eating window maximises recovery after a run.

  • Rest

Depending how far you have run and how used to the distance you are, you may need a few days, even a week’s rest from activity to allow your body to recover before restarting your training programme.

How a sports physiotherapist can help

For injury assessments and rehabilitation, recommendations on your running training schedule and integrating running strength training call Chris at React on 0121 227 0500 or email chris@reactphysiotherapy.co.uk.

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