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Spring in to action: preparing to run

When Spring comes around, running becomes a popular form of exercise. In Physical Therapy we see an increase in clients who are seeking care for plantar fasciitis and achilles tendon pain this time of year. Both of these injuries are caused by a rapid increase in stress placed on these structures relative to what they are conditioned to, and usually the stress is from starting a running program. This article is intended to provide guidelines to follow in order to reduce your risk for injury this Spring when it comes time to run:

1. Strength Training –  Strength training can be a great way to build up resistance to injury risk. Running causes a lot of stress in your feet, ankles, knees, and hips. Strength training can build your tolerance to this stress in a more controlled manner than running can. Exercises that emphasize the muscle groups involved in running (calf raises, squats, lunges, box jumps, jump rope) will be most beneficial. Perform for 6-8 weeks to build up the strength needed to start a running routine.

2. Interval TrainingWhen you start running, it’s best to ease into those long runs. Interval training is a great way to do so. Depending on what your goal distance or duration is for your run, intervals will vary. But a safe way to do so regardless will be to gradually build up to running that full distance/duration. There are a variety of methods to do so, but for the sake of simplicity I would recommend running 1/2 the distance/duration desired and walk 1/2 the distance for two running sessions, progress to running 3/4 for three running sessions, and then progress to running the full distance/duration desired. Below is an example of someone who knows that in the Fall they could run 3 miles straight, but have not ran during the winter and wants to get back to running 3 miles in the Spring.

3. Recover Well – Your body will not be ready for back-to-back days of consecutive running, and you will be extra sore after your first few runs this year, but that’s okay. It’s important to understand this and to have a plan to recover from your runs. Here is a simple outline to facilitate recovery from your runs: 

– Sleep 8 hours per night, there is no other factor as important for your recovery\

– Use a foam roller or lacrosse ball after your runs to roll-out your calves, bottom of your feet, and inside of your thighs

– Take at least two days off of running between your first few runs to allow recovery