What an honor it was to be interviewed for an article for Women’s Running this month (M. Rodenburg, “5 Tips for Sticking to Running Once the Pandemic is Over” womensrunning.com, April 14, 2021). While the author focuses on those who took up running during the pandemic and want to stick with it, the piece offers appropriate tips for any of us.
Now that spring is fully here (tomorrow is May already!) it’s a great time to focus on making running a habit, but aside from other things competing for our attention, there is one big issue that can sideline us before we get going.
I won’t repeat the 5 Tips outlined (read the article!), but add that one other thing: conditioning. While coaching and being involved in beginner running programs, I think the biggest factor that stops developing runners dead in their tracks is conditioning – or rather lack of conditioning. Especially as we get older.
Last week, Kurt wound up in the hospital with acute lower back. The right mix of pain killers and anti-inflammatories over a few days got him to the point of moving again and physical therapy is next up on the agenda.
We’re still not 100% sure of the cause. MRI didn’t provide any clues like an obvious disk herniation. There was no telltale pain down the leg that typically comes with a compromised sciatic nerve. What I do know is this: when I have had back pain issues it’s usually at a time when I’ve gotten careless about conditioning.
Often beginner runners – or even us veterans coming back after a long winter – just go out and run. We tend to ramp up the distance and/or intensity too quickly and also likely neglect the warm-up and warm-down, and other necessary strengthening exercises needed to support our level of activity.
As a coach, I stress the importance of conditioning and urge would-be runners to make that a habit first! Too often new runners start to develop aches and pains due to lack of conditioning that they attribute to an “injury” and sit back on the couch discouraged and defeated, believing they “can’t run.”
I’ve written about this before. It’s a subject I can’t overstate. Take the time to do a dynamic warm-up – just 5 minutes of moving that gets the blood flowing to all the important parts of the body. Give your body some warning that you’re going to be asking it to work hard – don’t shock it into submission! Here’s a rough video I did of my pre-run warm-up.
Then when you’re done, WARM-down. Do a few more moving (dynamic) stretches and then some static stretches (positions that you hold). My routine is 15 minutes (a video of which can be found here). So plan 20 minutes of pre-and post run conditioning. If you are pressed for time, cut down on the run time, not the conditioning time.
Additionally, some key core strengthening should be added to your cross-training days. In addition to flexible leg muscles, a strong abdomen, back, and hips are needed to support the workload. A routine I like can be found here.
There is more to running than just running. I can’t stress enough how important the whole package is. The extra time on conditioning is well-spent. Not only will you feel better, you will be less prone to injuries and set-backs and be able to run long for a long time! Wishing you happy and healthy running!