Ready, Set, Run! 8 Tips for Runners This Spring
Why do people — from casual joggers to marathoners — run? They’ll likely explain that physical activity, like jogging, makes them function, sleep and ultimately feel better. There are about 50 million runners and joggers in the United States, according to a 2022 report by Statista Research Department.
Spencer Weldon, MS, CSCS, exercise physiologist with Move by BJC, says running is one of the most accessible outdoor activities for people of all ages.
“Starting to train for an event can be intimidating, especially if this is your first time or if it’s been a long time since you exercised regularly,” says Weldon. “But with the right approach, you can achieve your goals, get healthy and maybe even have a little fun.”
Here are some tips to get you ready for your first (or first in a while) running event:
- Consult with a professional. Whether you talk with your doctor, a strength and conditioning coach, personal trainer or physical therapist, it’s important you speak with someone who has experience with training for these types of events and can conduct a physical assessment. This will screen for any preexisting issues that may cause problems and help you avoid new issues while training.
- Set SMART goals. These goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time sensitive. Such goals will help you stay focused and motivated throughout your training process.
- Start slowly. Whether new to running or exercise or generally sedentary, running several miles in a day can cause injuries and burnout. Gradually increasing your distance and pace will help prevent injuries and allow your body to adjust to these new stressors.
- Create a training plan. Develop a plan that progresses gradually and includes a combination of running, strength and flexibility training, plus recovery days.
- Get high-quality running shoes. You’re about to spend many hours running many miles, so make sure your shoes fit properly and provide adequate support.
- Drink and eat properly. Staying properly hydrated throughout the day and eating the right foods to fuel and recover from your workouts can help prevent injury and burnout.
- Listen to your body while pushing yourself. If you’re experiencing sharp pain or nagging discomfort, you may need to take a break and add some rest to your routine. This doesn’t mean you should never experience discomfort; in fact, the key is to get comfortable being uncomfortable and push toward your goals.
- Rest and recover. Recovery days are just as important as training days, and just like improper hydration and nutrition, inadequate rest will also leave you vulnerable to injury.
Running is a great way for families to be active together. Physical therapist Theresa Coverick, PT, DPT, works with children and adolescents in the Young Athlete Center at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.
She says finding proper footwear is a good way to start preparing to run. “There are so many types of lifestyle shoes that aren’t meant for running,” says Coverick. “I'd recommend that a new runner visit their local running store for assistance in finding a running shoe that is firm, light and comfortable.”
When it comes to building mobility, strength and endurance — all of which are important for distance running — Coverick recommends that children and adolescents play a variety of sports.
“Participating in different sports helps to improve strength, mobility and stability through a variety of movement patterns important for building a strong runner," she says.
“If you’re trying running for the first time, start slow with a walk/run interval progression,” Coverick adds. “You can start with 1-minute walk/run intervals and build running time from there until you’re able to run a few miles without stopping. At this point you can seek help from a coach to advance running volume and intensity safely.”
Coverick also emphasizes that sleep, hydration and nutrition are a must for injury prevention.
“Adolescent athletes not only need to fuel their bodies to support their sports activity but also to support rapid phases of growth,” she says. “Often the energy needs required for all this growth and activity are underestimated. When athletes are not meeting their energy needs or achieving adequate rest, they may run into issues with injury or difficulty recovering from workouts.”
The St. Louis Children’s Young Athlete Center has developed a series of interactive injury prevention and educational programs designed to help improve the overall health of young athletes. Programs are offered to private groups of 15 or more and are taught at the St. Louis Children’s Hospital Specialty Care Center – West County or at the group’s requested location. Parents and children attend together and learn side by side. These 45- to 60-minute programs are available on the following topics:
FIFA 11+ Injury Prevention Warm-Up
Empower – sport safety program designed for female athletes
Children’s Runner’s 10
Visit the Young Athlete Center for more information on these programs.
Put your training to good use by participating in one of the many walks and runs that BJC HealthCare is proud to support this year:
National Kidney Foundation’s St. Louis Kidney Walk: March 26
Make-A-Wish Foundation’s St. Louis Walk for Wishes: April 8
American Heart Association’s Metro St. Louis Heart Walk: May 13
Arthritis Foundation’s Walk to Cure Arthritis: May 13
Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s Gateway Great Strides: May 20
Live Well Events’ Ferguson Twilight Run: May 20
Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation’s Take Steps St. Louis Walk: June 10
MO’ Cowbell Marathon: Oct. 1