Congratulations on making the decision to pursue a healthy habit like running!
One of the coolest things about running is its accessibility.
While we are certainly not all destined to become marathon runners, nearly anyone can – with the right foundation and approach – incorporate some sort of running routine into their lives.
However, there is a little bit more to it than simply lacing up your shoes and heading out the front door; this is especially true if you are brand-new to the sport.
Running is a high impact activity.
It is something that your body needs to acclimate to slowly.
Think of all the systems in your body which need to strengthen and change in order for you to become a better runner: your heart, your lungs, your mentality, your bones, your joints, and your muscles.
It's a big change, especially if you haven't been working out much up to this point.
But don't stress, and definitely don't give up!
Let's take a look at the right way to cross-train to make sure your body is prepared to handle this new and exciting challenge.
Build Muscle to Prevent Injuries
Without even thinking about it too hard, you can probably guess the joints that take the brunt of the jarring movement of running: ankles, knees, hips, and lower back.
Every time your foot strikes the pavement, the track, or the trail, it results in major stress to your joints.
Even a short jog could mean thousands of individual impacts to contend with.
If you're reading this article because your knees or hips have been bothering you since you started running, then you already know what we're talking about.
So, are you doomed to quit your new hobby before you even get started?
Chances are, this is just a matter of your muscle strength not having caught up with your activity level yet.
Your joints are surrounded by muscles, and one of their main functions is to help protect those joints.
By making sure that your legs, core, and even your upper body are strong enough to support your joints, you will notice a decrease in, and sometimes a complete cessation of joint pain.
Focus on Muscle Balance
Common mistakes to avoid: make sure you are strengthening and stretching both the front and back of your body.
By allowing the muscles on one side to become significantly stronger than the muscles on the other side, you can inadvertently cause injury or pain.
Here's a great example: shin splints.
The bane of every runner’s existence, shin splints are often caused due to a muscle imbalance between the front and back of your legs.
When running, your calf muscles gain a lot of strength very quickly, sometimes so quickly that they begin pulling or pushing against ligaments and your shin bones, causing that persistent dull ache.
This can be alleviated with proper strength training, mobility exercises, and overall muscle balancing.
Remember that once your muscles begin to get out of balance, there can be a little bit of a runaway train effect as one side gets continually stronger and places more stress against its counterpart.
If the situation gets bad enough, it can even begin to impact your gait, meaning that the way you move when you run is fundamentally changing.
That's not a good sign, especially if it's causing you to strike the ground at an unfavorable angle or causing you to hunch or lean while running.
If you feel you may have pain or injury due to muscle imbalance, definitely talk to a personal trainer or fitness coach about your concerns.
They can show you the proper exercises to get you back on track quickly.
Build Your Base
If you are just starting out and are concerned because you have trouble huffing and puffing your way through 60-second jogs, don't be so hard on yourself.
Very few people go skipping out the door and effortlessly complete a 10K. Most of us have to start at the beginning.
One way to make things easier on yourself is to focus on exercises which help you build a solid foundation.
What does this mean? Working on posture, low impact cardio, and lower body endurence in the gym.
When you focus on these areas, you will begin to notice that your speeds and distances are increasing as you continue to train.
And if you are not sure where to start...talk to one of our Los Gatos personal trainers.
We’ll help make sure you’re setting off on the right foot, avoiding injury, protecting your joints, and building your strength and stamina.
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Mint Condition Fitness empowers purpose-driven men and women to lose weight, get out of pain, and do more of the things that make life meaningful.