We often push ourselves through our workouts, encouraged by the mantra “No pain, no gain.” But the truth is that this is a gross oversimplification. Some pains shouldn’t be ignored or worked through because they could be a warning of debilitating injuries. Running, in particular, can come with all sorts of little aches and pains, some more severe than other.
Since pain is our body’s way of telling us that something is wrong, we should do what we can to alleviate that pain. The solution will depend on the exact pain you’re experiencing and if you’re having persistent pain of any kind you should speak with your doctor. However, these are some little changes you can make to your routine to help reduce some minor, common pains.
Check Your Stride
We don’t generally think of running form since it’s something that we do so naturally. But it’s very possible that your running technique could be contributing to your pain.
Jane Unger Hahn of Runner’s World says that the first aspect of good running form is good posture, which starts with head position. Hold your head up straight and look ahead, resisting the temptation to look down at your feet.
Your shoulders should be level and relaxed. Especially as you get tired, your shoulders may start to tighten and lift up toward your ears. Shake them out and focus on keeping the muscles relaxed; there’s no point in allowing your shoulders to use energy your legs, heart and lungs need.
Don’t clench your fists when you run, but keep your hands loosely closed so that your fingertips just barely touch your palms. Maintain a 90-angle in your elbows and allow your arms to swing in conjunction with your stride so that they can work to keep you balanced.
Many running coaches will describe the proper torso position as “running tall,” meaning that you should keep your body upright with a natural curve in your spine. This allows your lungs to operate at maximum capacity and keeps all of your joints aligned so that they can do their jobs correctly.
In addition to an upright torso, many modern running styles encourage a slight forward tilt at your ankles to allow gravity to pull you forward in sort of a controlled fall. This technique can be hard to master, though, and will take some practice.
Make sure to keep your hips level throughout your run. Misaligned hips will throw out the rest of your lower-body and create problems in your knees as well as your lower back.
Your steps should be short and quick, so that your knees have a slight bend when your feet hit the ground and your feet should land just under your body. If your lower leg is in front of you, you’re over-extending and your stride is too long. This could cause joint pain and injury, especially to your knees.
Your feet should hit the ground with a mid-foot strike and then roll forward on to the balls of your feet. This can be difficult since many running shoes are built with extra padding on the heel and encourage a heel-striking. Landing on your heel has been shown to increase the risk of injury to your calves and knees. Likewise, landing on the balls of your feel doesn’t allow your foot to properly absorb the impact and puts too much pressure on your calves.
Get Up and Warm Up
Many modern jobs require people to sit for long periods of time and going from a desk to the track can be difficult on your body. Try to break up your day with small bits of activity about every hour or so by doing some basic bodyweight exercises, stretching or going for a short walk.
Immediately before your run, take the time to warm up as well. Start out with an easy walk but, over the course of about five minutes, work your way up to a brisk walk so that you are moving only just slower than a jog. Coach Jenny also recommends working in brief bouts, about 20 seconds long, of walking backwards to thoroughly open up your hips.
What has helped you to avoid injuries while running? Please share your tips with us in the comments.