Many people who take up running as a hobby quickly find themselves suffering from sore knees or hips.
But there are ways for runners to protect their joints, says Daniel Kaptain, a professor at the BSA Academy in Saarbruecken, Germany, a college focused on health management and illness prevention.
Here are his very actionable tips:
Your running mechanics are determined by your build, height and the length of your legs. Improper upper body posture in particular can have detrimental effects.
People who spend much of the day sitting tend to have a rounded back and stiff hip flexor muscles. This puts stress on the spine and can cause problems with stride length and frequency. The optimal posture is one in which the torso leans slightly forward during a run.
Flexible ankle joints and good proprioception – or sense of body position – ensure sure-footed movement. If your feet don’t strike the ground properly, your knees and hips – and sometimes your spine as well – have to compensate. Since the joints aren’t built for this, they can be over-stressed.
Novice and overweight runners should start with a soft, level surface to minimise wear and tear on their joints. Later, they can graduate to uneven routes, for example in woods, which have the advantage of working more muscle groups.
The more natural the running shoes, the better – and the sole should match the runner’s foot structure. Make sure that it does while you’re still in the store. But even with the right shoes, you need to be mindful of tightness or pain and adapt your training intensity accordingly.
A standard order of precedence is frequency, duration, intensity. In other words, the most important thing is to first increase the number of times you run per week, and then the duration of the runs. Finally, you can increase your speed and/or the difficulty or distance of your route.
Specifically, this could mean increasing the number of runs to four per week from two, the duration to 60 minutes from 20, and then your speed to 12kmph from 8. This requires several months of consistent training, during which your body will get into better shape and you’ll be less susceptible to injury.
A rule of thumb is that you’re overdoing it if you’re breathing heavily. Heart rate monitor watches can also help prevent overexertion. And if your posture is incorrect, you’re doing something wrong. To become aware of this, however, you need a trainer, who can point out mistakes and tell you how to correct them. – dpa