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Running Conditioning: It’s not just about hitting the road

Running Conditioning; Injury Prevention and Performance:
It’s not just about hitting the road!

It’s January and a time when many people when many people start thinking like Forrest Gump and feel the need to start running. It is however, also the time when our biomechanics specialists and therapists at Synergy Health Studios are inundated with a variety of running based injuries. Over the next few months we will be treating ankle, shin, knee, lower back and hip injuries as a result of people either significantly lifting the intensity of their running program or starting from scratch when their bodies are not quite ready.
Now I have nothing but admiration and respect for all you guys and girls who want to make a positive change to your lifestyles by improving your fitness and shedding those unwanted pounds. What I and the rest of the staff here at Synergy would like to do however is give you a little help to make sure you stay injury free and can continue your progress well into 2013 and beyond.

Trust me; there is nothing like an injury to derail your training and put a stop to all of your hard earned progress!

Unfortunately, aspects of our lifestyles such as inactivity, sitting for long periods, inappropriate footwear and our diet and stress levels do not lend themselves well to the process of pain free running. Being sat at a desk and driving for long hours as well as a plethora of modern technology doing things for us means that we have become de-conditioned and more susceptible to injury. Our lifestyles mean that we are developing more and more postural issues. Our shoulders hunch forward into kyphosis, the muscles around our hips such as our gluteal muscles, adductors, hip flexors and hamstrings become tight and weak and our feet and ankles become ill equipped to absorb the ground impacts associated with running.
What I have found over the years as a fitness professional, is that even the most hardened runners neglect a good flexibility, conditioning and nutrition program that will not only allow them to stay injury free, but also vastly improve their running performance and give them a lean and strong physique.
So as a great treat to start the year off with a bang, I would now love to share with you some of the amazing secrets that myself and the other guys at Synergy prescribe to our clients on a daily basis.

The Principles of Running Better

1. Flexibility program
Simply the most neglected area in fitness and definitely the most misunderstood!
When thinking about flexibility we think of lengthening our muscles and holding them there for long periods (10-30 seconds). If we think about the act of running there is no point where our muscles need to be held anywhere for that length of time. As a result, static stretching may actually be de-conditioning your muscles for running and may lead to injury.
Running is very dynamic, and as such so should your flexibility program. Your warm up is the most important part of your training session as you will prepare your body for work so it understands what is required of it during your run.
Make sure you are performing a dynamic stretching program based around the movements involved in running.

Remember! If it doesn’t look like running then it probably isn’t going to be that much help to you.

2. Running Conditioning Program
The aim of this would be to compliment your running by addressing postural and biomechanical issues that may be a potential source of injury when running. A good conditioning program will include the flexibility aspects described above as well as strengthening exercises designed at improving running function. Lunges and jump lunges are great for this and based on your mechanics can be tweaked and adapted in literally thousands of different ways to positively enhance running function.

3. Nutrition
Simply the most important part of any fitness and weight loss program!
Now I am certainly not a fan of Gillian Mckeith in any way but when she says “You are what you eat” she is absolutely right. Not only will poor nutrition make it really difficult to maintain or achieve levels of low body fat, it may also be a major cause of injury.
I am sorry to tell you this but pasta is not a good diet or running food. As a general tip, we should look to avoid wheat. Wheat and gluten are a massive source of inflammation in not only out muscles and joints but also in our blood vessels. As a runner we definitely need a source of carbs but we would be much better off focussing on non-gluten carbs like brown or wild rice, quinoa, buck wheat and rye products as these provide you with a great source of energy without the inflammatory side effects.

4. Stress
How many times have you heard some of the elder folks among us say “It’s not like the old days” And do you know what? They are absolutely right. It certainly isn’t. I am however talking about the really old days when the human race lived in caves and hunted mammoths and giant sloths. Our stress response system is still the same however and was designed to get us out of danger if we were being pursued by a bear or sabre tooth tiger or something. It is not designed to cope with the continual stresses we have created for ourselves, like long working hours and money worries etc. This has made our stress response system work much differently and is a big cause of health concerns such as heart disease and strokes.

Exercise has been put up as the answer and in most cases it is. We need to be concerned however with quality and not quantity. Long, slow running will in some cases heap even more stress onto an already stressed system. So if you are stressed because of work or home life the best type of exercise is short, sharp and intense with a lot of your time dedicated to rest and relaxation. Interval training is great for this. Now I am not talking about flat out sprints but working at higher intensities with short rest periods has not only been shown to be even more beneficial for weight loss but will also illicit a faster fitness improvement.

5. Sleep
Real simple one this and a continuation of the stress factors we talked about. We must ensure we aim for 8 hours of sleep per night and absolutely ensure that we get at least 7 hours. During sleep is when the body carries out its essential repairs to our muscles, bones, joints and cells. It is also the time when we are able to get rid of the mental clutter that messes with your head and makes you feel like you can’t cope.

6. Get a Proper Running Assessment
It has been found recently that our gait is even more unique than our finger prints which proves that absolutely no one person is the same. This means that all generic exercise programs will not be suitable for everyone. A good running assessment will identify your own individual strengths and weaknesses and come up with a bespoke training regime to suit your needs as an individual.

Thanks for reading this guys and sticking with me. As a reward, I have created a great video showing you some of the flexibility techniques and approaches we use with our clients to help improve their running function. If you would like to access this great video then please drop me an email to so I can send you the link and help get you running on the road to a fitter and healthier new you in 2013.

Please feel free to include any other questions in your email that you think I can help you with. Until then, try to add some of these principles into your own running programmes to help you achieve the best results possible.

This entry was posted in Exercise, Health and Wellness Programs

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