Update January 2021: This blog was first published in May 2020, so is written in the context of government advice at the time. The current advice from the UK government is to limit outdoor exercise to once per day, so please make sure you are keeping active responsibly.
As the end of our eighth consecutive week under lockdown draws ever closer, running has become an even more crucial part of life for many of us - keeping us active, healthy and (arguably most importantly) sane.
With gyms and leisure centres closed for the foreseeable future, our exercise focus has shifted - with people taking to the trails to run more often. Following the welcome announcement this week that we can start to responsibly increase our outdoor exercise, there's a real temptation to add another run or two to our already busy exercise schedules.
However, upping your miles dramatically can leave you exposed to injury - especially if you’re new to running. We take a closer look at how you can help prevent injuries, while still keeping active and staying well.
1. Don’t overdo it
Dramatically changing the distance or the intensity of your runs can lead to injury. Generally, make sure you don’t increase your training by more than 10% every week, to give your body time to adapt. It’s tempting to push yourself for quick results, but patience will pay off in the long term. There’s truth in the expression: ‘Slow and steady wins the race!’.
2. Build up your strength
Having a strong body is essential for helping to prevent running injuries, as it helps to support your muscles - especially smaller inter-connecting muscles that are essential for running. Conditioning exercises that focus on your glutes and core help to create stability. Working on building strength will also help you to run faster, as your body becomes more able to adapt and respond to changes in pace, terrain and environment.
3. Stretch, stretch, stretch!
Often overlooked, stretching should be every runner's secret weapon. Even just 5 minutes after each run can make a massive difference. As well as improving your flexibility, it will help to lengthen your muscles and keep them supple. If you want to go one step further, a foam roller can work wonders for getting rid of post-run muscle tightness.
4. Rest is key
Speak to any professional athlete and they'll tell you that recovery is a vital part of any successful training programme - giving your muscles time to repair and strengthen before your next session. Ensure you take enough time during the week to give yourself a well-earned break and you’ll reap the benefits.
5. Mix up your run
Continuously repeating the same type of run over and over again will overwork and fatigue your muscles. Make sure you mix up your running style, from speed sessions, to longer distances and different terrain. This will ensure you train different muscles for all-round strength and endurance.
6. Old injuries need recovery time
Running on an old injury before you’re fully recovered is a sure-fire way to head straight back on the sidelines. Take the time to truly recover before heading out there again. Keep your fitness up with lower impact exercise, such as cycling or walking.