If you’ve recently been bitten by the running bug, you might be feeling tempted to get out running as much as you possibly can. And it’s natural to, given the new-found sense of purpose running suddenly affords you – not to mention the natural high you begin to experience after every run. However, ramping up the mileage too soon is likely to see you injured, potentially halting your running journey before it’s properly begun. But how do you know if you’re going too fast? WR’s fitness editor, Anne-Marie Lategan explains how to up your mileage gradually…
“When you start to run, your body needs to adapt to the initial impact and stress that it puts on your body,” explains Anne-Marie Lategan, human movement specialist and Women’s Running tness editor. While it’s natural to experience joint and muscle aches and pains as a new runner, Lategan warns that you should be alert to any periods of prolonged pain. “Muscle soreness should last a maximum of 72 hours and joint aches should clear within 24 hours. If symptoms last longer, you have pushed your body too far out of its comfort zone, which leads to structural damage of your soft tissue i.e. muscles, tendons or ligaments. This triggers your body’s inflammation system, which can cause swelling, redness, hot spots, joint stiffness and soreness.”
To prevent such damage occurring, Lategan advises new runners to avoid running on consecutive days. “Give your body at least 48 hours rest in between training sessions,” she says. “Start off with three training days [per week] until you don’t feel sore and stiff, before adding extra training days.” Alongside running, Lategan also suggests building some cross-training into your weekly routine. “Cross- training is very important to improve your overall fitness and your body’s oxygen consumption,” she says. “Incorporating different cardiovascular exercises, for example rowing, swimming or cycling, into your training programme will improve your fitness level and muscle endurance without the body weight impact.”
Integrating some targeted strength and conditioning work into your training will also help reduce your risk of developing any overuse injuries, common in new runners. “Overuse injuries are directly related to your running style; for example, if the muscles in your bum (glutes) aren’t functioning correctly during the running stride, other muscles will have to kick in to do the work,” says Lategan.
“This can lead to lower back, hip or knee pain. Another overuse injury which new runners sometimes overlook is neck, shoulder and upper-back pain around your bra strap. The swinging movement of your arms puts a lot of strain on muscles that don’t normally get trained that often. Following a strength-training programme, specifically for runners, can significantly improve your running style and reduce your risk of overuse injuries.”
At first, adopting a run/walk strategy is a great way to build your fitness at a gradual and sensible rate. “Start off with one minute running then walk for one to two minutes,” advises Lategan. “Reduce the walking time to one minute and increase the running time to two minutes after two weeks. Once you can do that, increase your running time to three minutes with one minute walking. Build up until you can run for 10 minutes. The amount of rest you need will depend on how hard you have pushed yourself outside of your comfort zone. If you have never run before at all, your comfort zone might be one mile.”