1. Manage load
Load management is one of the most important factors to take into account whether you are new to running or an experienced runner. If you are new to running, you would want to start with a shorter run and slowly progress your way up.
For example, you may want to start your program with interval sessions.
A combination of a run/walk program is a good place to start. For example, you may choose to run for 1 minute and walk for the next minute for about 15-20 minutes. Slowly progress yourself to running for 2 minutes and walking for one. As you can see, a slow build up of your running volume would minimize the risk for running related injuries.
If you are an experienced runner, you are not out of the woods! Recent research has shown that 88.8% of subjects report running related injures in preparation for a half or full marathon! That means that even if you are an experienced runner, the concept of load management still applies! This is especially true when you are training for a particular event. Make sure you have a training program that is quite flexible in case you need to de-load for a few days.
A rough guideline is to not exceed your running volume by more than 10-15% a week.
The importance of strengthening exercises is often overlooked when running but is one of the most important factors for both injury prevention and performance. Research has shown the effectiveness of strength training to reduce injuries and to improve endurance performance.
You should try to aim for a general strengthening program 2-3x a week. Although, the glutes are important in running, it is actually one of the muscles in the calf that accepts most of the load when running! A good strengthening program should incorporate those muscles.
3. Increase cadence
What is cadence? Running cadence is how many steps you take per minute. If you have a watch that tracks stats, it would often track your average cadence (avg 160-180 or so). There is no “optimal” number but as a very rough guide, we know that if you increase your cadence slightly (5-7.5%), you would see a decrease in the amount of joint loading to your hips, knees, and ankles by ~20%!
Without a precise number, you can increase your cadence by running with shorter steps but with more steps. Just a bit of a warning, as you increase your cadence, you see an increase load in your calf and Achilles tendon. Therefore, you should strengthen those areas!
As a general guide, you may want to increase your cadence if you have hip, knee or ankle joint issues, but not if you have calf, achilles or forefoot pain. Despite this, an increase in cadence may also improve your running economy as the forces are not “wasted” bouncing up and down if you shorten your stride with a higher step rate.
Every body is different so do consult a physiotherapist to determine your individual needs when starting a new running regimen.
Written by Colin Wong