Keep on running

Candice Davis

Running is becoming an increasingly popular form of exercise; it requires very little expensive kit; it can be done just about anywhere and fits into busy lifestyles. But like any physical activity, running can cause injuries, many of which can be easily avoided with a little common sense, says physiotherapist Candice Davis.

Invest in a good pair of running shoes

Don’t start unless you have a good pair of well-fitting running shoes- this is essential! I am constantly surprised by the amount of beginners that end up in my clinic sheepishly admitting that the plimsolls they have been training in have perhaps contributed to their calf strain.

A specialist running or shoe shop will be able to advise on the best shoes for you, according to your foot type and the way you walk and run. You should also be advised to get a half size bigger than your normal shoe size to accommodate movement and swelling of feet that occurs during running.

Warm up and stretch

Gently stretching your calf, hamstring and quadricep muscles before setting off increases blood flow and helps prevent tears to your muscles and soft tissue. Feel the stretch - but don’t push yourself into pain - and hold for about 20 seconds before releasing slowly. Stretching and massage can also do wonders after your run.

Rest and repair

Runners need to have rest days to enable their muscles to heal and repair. The amount of rest you need is determined by your level of fitness and the amount of running you do. If you are new to running, start slowly with no more than three 20 minute runs a week, with rest days in between. You can build on this gradually as your body becomes fitter and stronger.

A good night’s sleep will help muscle repair, with the average runner needing 8-10 hours a night. Consuming sufficient protein is also vital to assist muscle repair and many athletes supplement their diets with protein drinks.

Drink and hydrate

Well-hydrated tissues are less likely to break down and so you need to make sure you drink plenty of fluids. The simplest way to know whether or not you are adequately hydrated is to keep a check on the colour of your urine - it should be a very pale yellow.

Attend to your injuries

If you have any persistent aches or pains, do take them seriously; they are your body’s way of communicating that something needs attention.

Common problems associated with running are runner’s knee, shin splints and hamstring tears. If you think you may have sustained an injury, act quickly - the sooner you address it the better. Rest, apply ice, add compression and elevate the injured area. Make an appointment to see your GP or local sports physiotherapist.

Stay alert

Today runners are all too often seen running alongside traffic plugged into their iPods lost in a tune. Be aware that motor vehicles and bikes are potential weapons of enormous destruction. Having your ears free and your wits about you is much safer.

Get moving

Running is an accessible way for people of all ages to exercise. It helps control your weight and cholesterol levels and boosts endorphins which promote mental wellbeing. And you don’t have to run marathons