With summer now in full swing, lots of us are hitting the track, the streets and the trails to get and stay fit.
"It's not uncommon for runners to get into a regular running routine," says Jamie Schwab, an athletic trainer at Henry Ford Health. "They'll find a comfortable pace and stick with it, often even doing the same route."
Unfortunately, doing the same run day after day not only leads to boredom, but it can also prevent you from reaching your full potential.
5 Tips To Run Smarter
It’s no secret that running is tough on the body. In fact, runners frequently develop muscle imbalances that make the body work harder. But you can take steps that can help you improve your run, maximize efficiency and get the most out of your running workout. Here's how:
1. Listen to your body: Whether you're a seasoned runner or just starting out, pay close attention to what your body is telling you. If your hips and knees are sore, back off. Feeling strong? Run another mile. The key to improving your run is to gradually increase distance and intensity over time. At first, you may only be able to handle a 10- or 15-minute jog. But if you keep at it, you'll be running for 30 minutes straight in no time.
2. Get the right footwear: If you're not a competitive runner, you might think any pair of running shoes will do. In reality, properly fitted running shoes not only enhance your performance but also reduce your risk of injury. Find a running store that can analyze your form and recommend shoes based on your unique gait and foot strike.
3. Pay attention to your target heart rate: Your target heart rate is 220 minus your age. Once you hit that rate during your run, you're working at maximum capacity. Don't want to invest in a heart rate monitor or be bothered with another tracking device? You're probably hitting the zone if you can still carry on a conversation during your run.
4. Focus on strength: If you're an avid runner but you aren’t strength training, you're setting yourself up for injury. "You're asking your body to do a lot during a run," Schwab says. "Weak glutes or hips add stress to your knees and ankles." Want to stabilize your run? Pay special attention to your core muscles. Solid strength training exercises include lunges, planks, squats and pushups.
5. Keep it interesting: Doing the same running routine day after day can be exhausting. Break out of your comfort zone by trying a different route, playing with your pacing, or running stairs or hills. You might even incorporate plyometric activities into your run. These explosive motions — hopping, skipping and jumping — help build power, strength and performance.
Eating well and getting regular exercise are key to enhancing overall health. Plus, a fit body is better equipped to avoid and battle infection. Running can also protect your sanity.
"Running is a great escape for many exercise enthusiasts," Schwab says. "Many people find they not only feel physically healthier, but their mental and emotional health also gets a boost."
The caveat: When you're running, you're placing double or triple your body weight on one side of your body at a time. So it's critical to pay attention to what shape your body is in before you take to the track. A few questions to ask yourself:
- Am I in good cardiovascular shape?
- Am I recovering from shin splints, knee injuries or hip problems?
- Am I at risk of falls?
- Am I suffering from osteoporosis?
It’s always important to check with your doctor before making changes in your exercise regimen. If running isn't appropriate for you, plenty of other activities, such as swimming, hiking and biking, can get your heart pumping.
To find a sports medicine specialist at Henry Ford, visit henryford.com/sports or call 1-800-436-7936.
Jamie Schwab, AT, ATC, SCAT, CSCS, is an athletic trainer with Henry Ford Sports Medicine and works with student athletes at Edsel Ford High School. She is a National Strength and Conditioning Association certified strength and conditioning specialist.
Playing sports is a great way for children of all ages to maintain a healthy lifestyle. It also builds confidence and teaches them valuable life lessons, like working as a team and the value of hard work. While it may be every sports fanatic’s dream to have their kid make it big time in the arena or on the diamond, sometimes pushing young athletes to be the best at a young age can lead to serious injuries that will take them out of the game altogether.
"Sports help with physical and psychological well-being," says Matthew Santa Barbara, M.D., a sports medicine physician at Henry Ford Health. "However, year-round participation in a single sport at a young age can lead to overuse injuries and mental burnout."
Nowadays, many kids will start playing one sport at a young age and continue to play that same sport year-round for years. This can be harmful to your child because his or her soft tissue and bone structures aren't fully developed. Furthermore, the pressures of year-round participation and focus on excelling, rather than enjoyment, can negatively affect a young athlete's mental health.
Basketball causes the most injuries among high schoolers, causing many visits to the emergency room each year for stressed and torn ankle ligaments. In baseball, the Tommy John surgery, a procedure to reconstruct torn ligaments in the elbow after overuse, has also been increasingly used to treat young athletes still in high school.
How To Prevent Sports Injuries
Preparing your children appropriately before a sports season begins and supporting them during the season is important. Dr. Santa Barbara offers four key pieces of advice to help your youth athletes avoid injury.
1. Don’t limit your child to one sport. Playing a variety of sports in different seasons is a great way to work different parts of the body. When your child gets older, they can make the transition to playing a single sport they are good at and enjoy.
2. Warm up. Make sure your child is properly warming up before they play any sport. Dynamic warmups--incorporating exercises that involve moving the body such as lunges, high knees and arm circles – are preferable to stretching alone.
3. Strengthen core muscles. Building up core strength takes pressure off joints in the arms and legs. It gives young athletes more momentum and can help improve their performance.
4. Abide by rest rules. Many schools and sports leagues have rules in place to limit how many teams kids are on or how often they play. Follow these to ensure your child is allowing time for their joints and muscles to recover from physical activity.
Children participating in a sport should never push through pain, and injuries should be promptly evaluated by a sports medicine physician. Physical injuries are often more obvious, while mental health issues due to sports participation can be more subtle. Symptoms such as fatigue and declining performance can be signs of burnout. In these situations, rest is also important.
"Sports should be fun for kids," says Dr. Santa Barbara. "Avoiding single-sports specialization at a young age keeps the focus on enjoyment while reducing the physical and psychological risks of year-round participation."
To find a sports medicine provider at Henry Ford Health, visit henryford.com/sportsmedicine or call 313-651-1969.
Matthew Santa Barbara, M.D., is a non-operative sports medicine physician at Henry Ford Health. He sees patients at the Henry Ford Center for Athletic Medicine in Detroit, Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital, Henry Ford Medical Center - Columbus, Henry Ford Medical Center - Bloomfield Township and Henry Ford Medical Center - Fairlane.