The Absolute Requirements of Pain Free Running
Our bodies were meant to move. Move in multiple ways in fact. Truth be told when we don't move, many body systems can malfunction. Those that participate in running and jogging will attest to the "high" that the activity can bring. Squeezing in those precious miles to satisfy their souls. Most runners are going to put in hundreds of pain free miles, but there will come a time when our bodies won't cooperate. How we adjust at that point will affect our tolerance moving forward. Are you a runner that pushes through all pain? One that stops cold turkey with an initial ache? Or that individual that meets somewhere in between these two extremes?
Regardless of your character, your mindset with running should fall into a category of "preparation." In our teens and twenties our bodies are so fresh that minimal preparatory work is needed. By our prediction, most of you reading this article won't fall into that age bracket. Even if you do we hope you are smart enough to plan for your future as a long term runner. As our bodies age our body systems require more attention. That's the truth so DON'T FIGHT IT!
The Warm Up?
As mentioned above, our body tissues are evolving as we age and become less resilient to repetitive stress. Running is a prime example of repetitive stress and as such we need to prepare our muscles, joints, brain, heart, and lungs for the graceful repetitive act of running. A solid foundation regarding any warm up is to KEEP IT ACTIVE!!
Using your heart rate is a good baseline approach to your warm up. You should have an idea of your maximum heart rate. There are multiple formulas to calculate this and all have their reasons, but for sake of a large general audience we keep it simple. Relative to your current age you need to subtract 220 - (your age) = Age related maximum heart rate. For very fit individuals we know you're already barking about this number being too low (and you're likely right), but again we are keeping this simple for a large generalized audience.
220 - (your age) = Age Related Max HR (HRmax)
Now that you have your max HR you need to understand percentages of this value. You want your warm up to raise your heart rate into the 60-75% range for minimum of 10 minutes. To calculate this take your HRmax and multiply by 0.60 and by 0.75 to reveal your range.
HRmax X 0.60 = Y
HRmax X 0.75 = Z
Your heart rate during warm up should be between Y and Z
Using the above formulas we will demonstrate the example of a 36 year old runner.
220 - 36 = 184.
Multiplying 184 X 0.60 = 110.
Multiplying 184 X 0.75 = 138.
So, this runner needs to raise their heart rate between 110 and 138 and sustain for 10 minutes. It is permissible to have your heart rate raise above 75% but we recommend not sustaining this heart rate for more than 2 minutes during the warm up.
Ok, so you have a heart rate range in place. Now what? We recommend balancing an adequate warm up with a few range of motion exercises, balancing exercises, muscle activation, progressive bounding/jumping exercises, and agility exercises in that order. Why this order? It progressively raises heart rate and loading of your joints to provide a steady demand to your body.
Would you like more direction in a specific warm up? Follow the link below to receive a FREE Warm Up Routine from TPT.
Now that you have the fundamentals of a warm up routine down, let's talk about the actual run. You should establish some realistic goals for your weekly running regimen. The goals should include days of running as well as days of rest. DO NOT CUT OUT REST DAYS....NO MATTER WHAT!!
Rest does not have to equate to no activity, but we recommend occasional days of NO RUNNING. Some rest days can simply be a substantial decrease of your pace and distance. Light jogs and walks can serve your body well when it is in search of rest while satisfying your need to be active. So, go ahead and feel good about "taking it easy" a day or two during the week. Most running injuries are simply overuse injuries which are preventable with rest days.
Your running schedule should be based on your weekly and monthly goals. Do not run hill repeats or tempo runs on consecutive days. On weeks with increased volume you need to also add rest intervals. Despite the type of run on any given day, your runs should focus on the appropriate cadence to further reduce your risk of injury. Check our blog for our information on cadence.
The Cool Down
The next absolute requirement to injury free running is the cool down. During the cool down we are hoping to reduce the post exercise induced muscle tightness and delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). There is some convincing literature to show that people that are more flexible feel less DOMS following exercise. If you recall the information from above on the warm up, you might have noticed that we didn't mention stretching during this phase. That is because the research has been clear that static stretching prior to physical activity can actually reduce performance of muscles. Therefore the cool down period is where we find value to stretch key muscle groups following your runs. The key muscles to focus on stretching include the gluteals, hamstrings, quadriceps, groin, and calf groups. If you have pain in any other area then those regions should be stretched as well. There are many techniques to stretch each of the above muscles but you can use our guide below for some simple techniques out on the road.
Stretches should elicit a tolerable "pull" to the intended region but not be painful. We recommend stretches to be held for 45-60 seconds each and perform one repetition of each stretch per leg. A longer sustained stretch encourages optimal tissue relaxation.
We hope that the combination of the warm up and cool down phases help you find miles of pain free running. Be sure never to miss any of our running or other health information by signing up for our blog with the sign up window in the right hand column. Happy trails and happy feet.