Summer is finally here and, as a keen runner, I’m grateful for the lighter mornings and longer evenings. As a physiotherapist, however, I’m less keen.
At this time of year, my patient list fills up with social runners whose idea of winter training is PS3 and couch surfing, but who’ve decided that now’s the time to dust off their running shoes and pick up where they left off last October.
They bound off as if their last four-miler was a few days, rather then six months, ago – only to hobble back a few minutes later with a pulled calf, hamstring or Achilles tendon.
So, for any runners finally emerging from their winter hibernation, here are a few tips to get you restarted, and help you stay injury free.
First, set a training goal – a certain amount of time out running or a specific distance. Accept the impact of the winter break and make sure that you build up to it incrementally.
Forget those traditional static stretches before you head out. They’ve long been proven to be ineffective. The best way to warm up for running is…running. However, this should be done at a slower pace, building up slowly over the space of 5 – 10 minutes until you are warm.
At this point, perform the following three dynamic stretches, as your muscles are warm and more pliable:
1. Hamstring and quadriceps leg swings.
Standing on one foot, holding onto a rail or similar, gently start to swing your other leg forwards and backwards with your knee straight, steadily increasing range. Perform 20 repetitions on each leg.
2. Inner-thigh leg swings.
As above, except that you swing your leg across in front of the stationary leg then out to the side. Do 20 repetitions on
3. Calf pike stretch.
Get in a ‘pike’ position (on hands and toes with your hips in the air). Put your right foot behind your left ankle. With your legs straight, press the heel of the left foot down. Release. Repeat 10 times on each side