We’re at that sweet spot of spring where the rain is less bone-chilling and frequent (oh, and no longer driving right into our face by the wind). It’s also that unique time of year where an afternoon high of 62-degrees feels down-right balmy, if not hot, and thus inspires our rugged populace to run, hike, bike, play tennis – or whichever physical activity suits their fancy – in clothing better suited for probably July or August. Which is totally understandable, it’s been a long winter, and folks are excited to get off the couch and go outside for some fresh air and exercise (without having to don ten pounds of foul-weather gear).
Speaking of exercise, running certainly remains a popular, go-to way to get active. The community-lead, shoe review website RunRepeat.com reports over 50 million Americans participated in running or jogging activities in 2020, finding it a most favorable form of cardio exercise thanks to its accessibility (just need shoes, socks, and motivation), flexibility (particularly when facing time constraints), and of course myriad physical benefits. According to Harvard Health Publishing, even five minutes a day of a low-intensity version of the stuff is enough to extend life by several years compared with not running at all. Meanwhile, Northwestern Medicine reports that regular running strengthens joints and actually protects against the development of osteoarthritis later in life.
Sounds pretty good. So, if the weather’s cooperating, and the convenience and health benefits are there, what’s the best way start running again after taking a long winter’s break, or maybe trying it for the first time? We found some helpful tips for those looking to beat feet this spring.
Walk First, Run Later
Walking before you run reconditions soft tissue (muscle, tendons, ligaments, fascia, and connective tissue) in preparation for more strenuous activity. Start with three to four 10-minute walks per week. You’ll know you’re ready for “later” when you can walk for 30 minutes straight without pain or needing a break.
Patience is a Practice
It can take weeks or even months for your muscles, tendons, bones, and ligaments to get strong enough to handle running. And keep in mind, it takes the legs much longer than the lungs to adapt to new stresses. A good rule of thumb is to increase distance by 10 percent week over week to get up to speed safely. Don’t fret, slow and steady always wins the race. When do you feel ready to run, here’s a great way to start:
- Week 1: Walk 4 minutes, jog 2 minutes; 5 cycles
- Week 2: Walk 3 minutes, jog 3 minutes; 5 cycles
- Week 3: Walk 2 minutes, jog 4 minutes; 5 cycles
- Week 4: Walk 1 minute, jog 5 minutes; 5 cycles
Take the Track
A track provides for walking and running that doesn’t leave you too far from your home or car in the event you need to stop. Plus, tracks are controlled, confined, flat, and safe (i.e., traffic-free! The exception being other runners, or possibly parents pushing baby strollers – watch out for them).
Improving fitness doesn’t mean you have to exclusively walk or run. Consider adding two or three days of cross-training to your routine. Yoga, Pilates, swimming, elliptical machines, or any group exercise program all develop appropriate strength. Another rule of thumb: choose the activity you like best. Which is a good philosophy for life in general: don’t be afraid to have a little fun with it.
Don’t Forget Days Off
Regardless of where you’re at physically, take rest days between activities. Everyone needs enough recovery between workouts, even the pros.
Specifics on Joint Health
According to the Arthritis Foundation’s Living with Arthritis Blog, physical activity helps reduce joint pain and increases range of motion by:
- encouraging circulation of synovial fluid for lubrication
- increasing blood flow (which provides vital oxygen and nutrients for health and recovery)
- activating joint-repair genes
- removing cellular waste
- building muscle
All-in-all, great reasons why running might be the right Rx for your orthopedic well-being. Not to mention just feeling great overall (don’t forget about those endorphins!)
If you think getting ready to run is a great way to welcome spring and anticipate summer, consult one of our orthopedic physicians to ensure you pick the right regimen and pace of activity. Have fun, and be healthy
Want to know more about what we do, or how you can live life “all in?” Click here to find a ProOrtho clinic near you and give us a call. We’re happy to help.