Struggles New Runners Face and How to Overcome Them from Struggles New Runners Face and How to Overcome Them

Struggles New Runners Face and How to Overcome Them

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Struggles New Runners Face and How to Overcome Them

Spring is one the best time of the year for running – the weather is just right, days are longer and the environment is more colorful. You feel energetic and want to start a new hobby to improve your health. One of the most affordable options is running. Simply go to the park and start jogging. Don’t let this fall in the “too good to be true” category.

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Fear of injury

Getting a permanent injury is many runners’ worst nightmare, Kevin Volz, an experienced runner with several marathons behind him, says. “There is a certain amount of fear with every new exercise regimen.” Some of the worst possible injuries are a torn ACL, stress fractures, trouble walking, and even running again, he adds. “You want to be smart about how you start running. You can’t put on shoes and run seven miles on Day 1,” he adds.

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Making running a habit

“I still struggle with that every day,” Volz says. “I make a to do list to help myself get motivated because there is so much other stuff to get done in a day; the easiest thing is to cut exercise.” Volz adds that signing up for a race so you have a goal in mind can really help motivate you to not break your new healthy habit. Using social media is another way. Sometimes the social pressure and expectations stimulates people to “better keep running,” he adds.

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Being too motivated

One of the hardest things for new runners is containing their enthusiasm, Volz says. You certainly can go to the local track and run two laps but you should not because your muscles will suffer, he adds. “Many new runners don’t understand the ramifications of pushing yourself too hard.” Beginners need to gradually increase the distance they run every week, Dr. Timothy Miller, Associate Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine at The Ohio State University, says. “Don’t increase mileage by more than 10 percent per week.”

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It can get very boring

Running can lack variety, Volz says. He points out a study that concluded that running the same route all the time can actually cause imbalances in the body that can lead to leg problems. This is because it is reacting to your route’s particular uneven surface. If you want to increase your strength and stamina as a runner switching up your routine by exploring new terrains is a great way to add variety to your training.

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Hunched-shoulder position

This is a big problem for most new runners, Volz says. “Keep your head up. Many people tend to drop it and look at the ground.” This is wrong. You will feel shoulder pain if you’re running wrong, he adds. “If you’re serious about running, it’s a good idea to get a physical therapist to take a look at your form and running gait. They can see the little details which can lead to big problems.”

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Thinking about pain

New runners should stop thinking about pain. “I always say that running is a mental game,” Volz says. “It’s really about getting out of your head.” A lot of people think about the pain and stop as soon as they feel a side stitch. “You can always make them go away while running by slowing down or speeding up and controlling your breathing; you don’t need to stop,” Volz says. 

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Not stretching

“I did it wrong for years,” Volz says. Steer clear of static stretching – stretching muscles between 30 and 90 seconds while the body is at rest and you’re not moving at all. You have to go for dynamic stretching before running, which basically means stretching while moving, Volz adds. High knees, butt kicks, touching your toes while walking are some examples of the right kind of stretching. “Take 4-5 minutes before every run.”

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Getting tired after 5 minutes

This is a very common struggle with new runners in races, Volz says. They are often overly ambitions and get excited by the crowd and atmosphere, he adds. “New runners think it’s easy and overestimate themselves, but they should give in to the pace and rhythm training teaches them.” Don’t run fast in the beginning because you won’t be able to finish due to fatigue. “It’s not about how fast; it’s about finishing the distance,” Volz adds. There is no better motivation to keep training.

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Waking up early

This is very difficult if you live in a place that is dark and cold in the winter, Volz says. Think about the benefit of how well you feel after a run. “This is a big motivation,” Volz adds. “I never believed it but it’s true.” The feeling of being tired in the morning goes away if you exercise and you feel energized and in a good mood. “You’ve already accomplished something today.”

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Finding the right running shoes

When people start running, they get new running clothes and shoes as a motivational factor, Volz says. “Often they go and get a well-known flashy brand to look cool. I’ve done it but soon my legs started to hurt.” It’s hard to find the right running shoes. This is a very individual need, Dr. Miller adds. It’s best to go to a store, have experts evaluate your gait, and test several sneakers.

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Knee pain

“Runner’s knee can mean many different things,” Dr. Miller says. “It can be irritation or wear and tear behind the knee cap. The pain gets worse if you’re running uphill or up and down stairs. There may even be some swelling. You need to maintain strength in your quad muscle and keep it healthy, Dr. Miller adds. It contains the VMO muscles, which control the position of the knee cap while running.

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Stress fractures

A stress fracture (a hairline fracture in a bone) can occur when the “bone remodeling” process is disrupted and the bone can no longer adapt to the stress. The more common fractures are in the mid-portion of the foot or tibia, Dr. Miller says. They usually occur because of overuse and training that is too aggressive such as too much speed work and increasing the number of miles too fast, he adds.

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Plantar fasciitis

This is a common running injury but not always in new runners, Dr. Miller says. It is usually most pronounced during the first few steps after getting out of bed in the morning. It is similar to Achilles tendinosis in that it is a breakdown of the small muscle fibers on the bottom of your foot. Reduce the volume and intensity of your running, get the right sneakers, and fix your running form. A worn pattern on the bottom of the sneakers at the heel is usually a sign of poor form, he adds.

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Hamstring strain

The most common causes of hamstring strains are strength imbalances and improper form. Runners are especially susceptible when they run their fastest. The quicker you go, the more pressure you put on the hamstrings because you extend your stride. This kind of injury takes at least four weeks to heal. It can often be longer because we walk every day, putting more pressure on the muscles. The best way to avoid the injury is through strength training.

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Ankle sprain

The ankle is a very mobile joint; it’s made to move. Ankle sprains happen when the foot turns inward and are common in all sports, Dr. Miller says. This unnatural move tears the ligaments that are located on the outside of the ankle. A good way to reduce this painful injury is by doing flexibility exercises, as it is brought by loose joints, Dr. Miller adds.  Such moves will help maintain general stability and strength. One effective exercise to strengthen your ankles is writing each letter of the alphabet with the tip of your toe, Dr. Miller says.

Struggles New Runners Face and How to Overcome Them