Last week I received a message on Instagram from a new runner, she has recently started running and is working towards a goal of running a half marathon later this year. Her question was ‘How many times a week should I run? Will I get injured if I run too much?’ I get a lot of questions about running, recovery, and injuries so I thought I’d share my top tips in one post …
- ALWAYS Warm Up! Even if it’s just for 4-5 minutes. If you’re heading out for a run first thing in the morning, you might be tempted to just pull on your leggings, lace up, and head out the door, (I’ll be honest, I have done that before), but it’s really not a good idea. Usually before I step out of the front door, I do some ankle raises, some wide stance squats, a few hip rotations and lunges, and then I run on the spot with high knees for thirty seconds. This warm only takes about 4 minutes, but it mobilises the whole body and it will help to prevent injury for sure.
- Strengthen Your Core. Running is great for your cardiovascular health but if you have a weak core or poor posture, then running might cause pain in your lower back or hips. Improving your core strength will also help you to run faster, so if you’re hoping to run a new PB this year, then you definitely need to work on strengthening your abs.
Start off by doing a 30 second elbow plank (repeat 3 times) gradually increase the time each week until you can hold it for 60 seconds. Also try adding some pilates core exercises to your weekly routine. (Check out Lottie Murphy for free pilates classes on the FIIT app or on YouTube. She’s great!)
- Stick To A Training Plan. I can’t tell you how much of difference I felt when I started training with a plan. The golden rule is that you should increase your minutes (or your miles) by roughly 10% each week. I believe that running three or four times each week is optimum for me, anymore than that and I struggle to recover and get the most out of each run / training session.
Your training plan should allow for adequate rest days as well as some recovery sessions too. You can download training plans online as a guide, or you could reach out to a running coach that will design a personalised plan for you.
- Stretch. Stretching is incredibly important for preventing injury and runners are notoriously bad at prioritising it. I know that stretching might be the last thing that you want to do when you’ve just completed a long run, but if you are disciplined with it, then it really is a game changer. You don’t need to be super flexible, but you do need to ensure that you have good mobility and movement. I recommend doing at least 10 minutes of stretching after every single run. I also do a much longer stretch session on one of my rest days too.
- Get A Massage. Now I’m not talking about a relaxing back massage at a spa (although that would be so nice!) Book a sports massage with a physiotherapist. When I was training for my first marathon, I wasn’t used to running so many miles each week, so I saw a physio every couple of weeks to get a deep tissue massage on my legs, hips and lower back. Sometimes I would dread going because the massage was so painful! but the next day my legs always felt great. I know it can be expensive to get regular physiotherapy treatment, but if you can afford it, you won’t regret it. Plus it’s much better to go with the aim to prevent injury, than to have go a few months later because you actually are injured. You know what I mean?
- Prioritise sleep. This might actually be the most important piece of advice that I can give to new runners. The stats around sleep and the benefits are undeniable! Running is hard! and it takes a lot of energy. Your body is amazing at repairing and recovering but you have to help yourself. Make bedtime one hour earlier and your body will thank you for it. Sleep is the one thing that is absolutely free, it’s completely within your control, (unless you have a new born baby) and it will improve every aspect of your health. Get to bed!
I really hope that is helpful, please let me know via Instagram / Twitter and please share this with anyone that might need some help at the start of their running journey.