Summer Runnin'

It is better to look ahead and prepare than to look back and regret.
— Olympic Champion, Jackie Joyner-Kersee

As April comes to an end, we all start to feel summer around the corner. The sun starts to come out from behind the clouds and the light lingers late into the evening. It’s the time of year that a lot of us like to lace up our running shoes and hit the road for a little running. Grabbing some of that limited Seattle Vitamin D is only one reason why we all see so many people jogging by on the Burke every day. Running has been shown to be a great stress reducer in addition to being an easy way to burn some calories and improve cardiovascular fitness. Personally, it’s a fun way for me to get out and do something with a friend, while also cross-training. Whatever your reason for going out on a run, I’ve come up with 3 tips for keeping your body healthy and happy as you rack up the steps.

Even more than I preach the warm up in class before we work out, I’m going to preach a pre-run warm up as well. Take it slow to start. Cut your average pace in half for the first few minutes. Do a couple exercises before you get into your run to get your muscles firing in helpful ways. Specifically, engaging your glutes and core will help take the some of the impact off of your knees and hips. Glute bridges, lunge steps, bird dogs, air squats, single leg deadlifts, are all good ways to wake up your glutes. For your core, some dead bugs, sit ups, hollow holds, and/or supermans can do the trick.

Here’s an example of a pre-run warm up -    

If you’re just going for a jog from your house, take it slow to the end of the block and back then, go through 3 x

10 R/ 10 L single leg glute bridges

10 R/ 10 L lunge steps

10 R/ 10 L dead bugs

20 sec hollow hold

And your body is primed and much better prepared to go on a run. This whole process can be as quick as you want, but will pay off big in the long term.

When you’re finished, cool down as well. Even though you feel hot and sweaty after a run, putting on a sweatshirt and pants can really help your body go more smoothly from hot to cold. This will help prevent strains and stiffness. Walk a bit to transition your body. Some dynamic stretches and rolling out, focusing more now on your quads and hamstrings, will also help keep your body loose and happy.

In addition to warming up and cooling down, our running form can be a huge factor when it comes to injuries and efficiency. You could be spending a lot of excess energy with patterns in your running technique. These inefficient patterns may also be putting undue strain on ligaments and joints. Be conscious of what your arms, legs, and hips are actually doing. In general you want to avoid crossing your body, your arms should be swinging straight back and forth, not side to side. Same with your legs, make sure your knees are driving straight up and down. You should notice that each step is balanced, not landing more heavily on one foot over the other, and not favoring the outside or inside of your foot when it hits the ground. Keep your chest up, should blades down and back, not leaning or hunching too far forward. Since we can’t see ourselves it can be helpful to ask a friend about how our form looks, “do my arms criss cross my body when I run?” “Does it look like my hips are shifting side to side?” If you are concerned about your form and you have no friends, or you don’t feel like asking, go ahead and video yourself.

It can be helpful to break down running mechanics and practice them. While standing balanced on one leg, pull you other knee straight up and place it back down again, mid-foot flat on the ground. Practice cycling just one leg straight up and straight down while keeping your posture and core tight. Drill how your arms are moving by sitting on the floor and pumping your arms like when you run. Notice if your elbows are going straight back and forth. Do you find yourself leaning side to side as your arms are moving? This could mean that you are unevenly distributing impact to your hips and knees. When doing exercises to break down your form make sure they are slow and perfect, before speeding them up.

My third piece of advice, pace yourself. When considering your pacing, think about the speed at which you are running and the frequency of your workouts. The same way going out too hard too fast can ruin the end of a long run, doing too many strenuous workouts over a short period of time can also be detrimental to your overall health and fitness journey. Most injuries associated with running are overuse injuries, caused by hammering your body too much or too soon. The likelihood these will affect you increases if you are adding in a lot of High Intensity Interval Training (like some of the wods we do here at the LAB). Just remember slow and steady wins the race. When it comes to going on a long run try to slightly increase your pace mile by mile. Even if you fall off by the end, you’ll be able to finish strong. When you are beginning a running regimen, don’t go for a very long run to start. Increase the distance of your runs a little at a time. Getting hit by shin splints, “runner’s knee”, IT band problems, stress fractures, achilles tendonitis, or plantar fasciitis can really set you back in many ways.

Want more running drills or warm up ideas? Nursing a particular injury? Need help analyzing your form? Please find me at the gym for more. I’d love to hear how it’s going! Come up with a good warm up? Share it with me in the comments!

Whether it’s the sunshine, a friend, some stress-relief, better cardiovascular fitness or just to shed those extra lbs; by keeping some of these things in mind, I hope that we’ll all be able to stay healthy running this summer, and beyond.

-- Charlie