Running Tips

People running a road race in colorful running shoes

By: Audra Ramsey, DO, Nicholas Galioto, MD, Matt Bravard, PT, CFMT

Whether you’re a veteran runner or just starting out, read the tips below from Broadlawns Sports Medicine experts to help you become a better, stronger runner.

Build a base
Start with easy runs and increase mileage over time. Start with running based on time instead of distance obtained.  As you progress, your mileage will increase in the same time period because you are conditioned and stronger, allowing you to run faster. If you haven’t run before, start with a walk/run progression. 

Stay hydrated and fueled
Practice hydrating with water during exercise. You may want to use a sports drink to help replenish electrolytes on runs of 6+ miles or when the weather is hot and humid. Staying well hydrated can help your performance.

To prevent cramping and digestive issues, run with your upper gut as empty as possible – at least 3 hours after a meal.

As you increase your distance, you will want to trial different energy/food products during your run. Most people require some food product between 8-10 miles.  It’s best to try these during your training runs, because the food may upset your stomach. Find out what quantity and combination of food/drink works best for you so you can replicate it on race day. 

Practice good form
Position and form can increase or decrease your efficiency when running. Some important considerations include:

  • Lean your trunk slightly forward.  This does not mean run bent over or slumped.  By its nature, running is moving your body forward.  If you are holding your body upright (elevating your chest) or bending backward (too much increased low back arch), all of you is not as involved with moving forward as it could be.

  • Relax your chin down so the back of your neck can gently lengthen.

  • Let your shoulder blades relax down the back of your ribcage.

  • Your feet should land near the midfoot and under your body.  If they are landing in front of your body, there is an increase in the ground reaction force that is absorbed by your body. 

  • Let your feet land lightly.  Listen to your feet hitting the ground and try to make it a soft sound instead of pounding or slapping.

Check out this video for an example of efficient running.

Add interval training 
Interval training improves performance – when preparing for the race, add interval training.   For example, when planning to run 30 minutes, add in a two five-minute intervals at high intensity (as fast as you can go) for 30 seconds with 30-60 second recovery until you have reach 5 minutes.  As strength and endurance increase, the intervals modify the interval training to meet individual needs. This is one example, but can be tailored to individual athletes.  Another example includes a track work out starting at 800 m, 400 m, 200 m then 100 m, running each interval at maximum speed with recovery in between.

Add strength training 
A strong core, upper body and pelvic girdle will help prevent injury when fatigue sets in.

Wear proper shoes and running gear
Forefoot – look for shoes with adequate flexibility.  No flexibility in the forefoot = more work for the calf muscle to push off. 

Midsole – this is the most important feature. The kind of midsole you need depends on the kind of runner you are. Harder midsoles are better for runners with excessive motion in the midfoot, specifically dual density midsole with the harder portion on the inside.  Softer midsoles are important for runners requiring extra shock absorption.  The goal is to avoid midfoot pronation (foot rolling in) while running.

Appropriate sportswear can prevent “runners’ nipples" – more common in cold weather.   Use petroleum jelly, tape over the nipples or a seamless bra.

Stretching is a helpful way to increase flexibility.  Dynamic stretching and warming up before running and static stretching after running is generally best. Stretch comfortably without forcing any movement.

Some examples of dynamic stretching are:

  • Walking while taking a high step and hugging your knee toward your chest, put that foot down, take a step forward with the other leg and repeat

  • Lunges

  • Walking forward kicking your foot up in front of you with your knee straight

Static stretching is typically a 30-60 second steady hold, no bouncing.

Recovery is very important for optimal performance – components include warm down, ice baths, massage, adequate rest and sleep, and rehydration/refueling.

Running can cause soreness and discomfort when you are training.  While muscle soreness is a natural thing, consistent, focused or constant pain is not.  If you consistently have a pain that centers in one joint or on one side of your body, you would likely benefit from having a medical professional take a look at it.

If you have questions about the information above or your running, Broadlawns Physical Therapy offers free screenings. This only takes about 15 minutes. To schedule a free screening, please call (515) 282-5621.