The Runners Corner Part 2: "pace it, don't race it"

Running…. It’s so trendy and so easy. Wake up, roll out of bed, shoes on, off you go.  The benefits from both a mental and physical health perspective are highly appealing.  It’s no wonder the footpaths are laden with runners all hours of the day.

The questions that were commonly asked “Is it safe?” and “What about my knees and hips?” are seemingly echoes of the past.  As the research suggests, from a joint health (specifically arthritis) perspective, such old paradigms have been debunked.  The positive benefits of exercise in all its forms outweigh the negative impacts of a sedentary life.

Despite this we do need to take it slowly for the sake of our tendons, who like a more ‘easy does it’ approach.  Running injuries tend to most commonly be linked to donning one’s boots too quickly.  The old adage of ‘pace it, don’t race it’, is really worth adhering to.

As a running physio, I recommend a slow, comfortable pace, with at least a day off between runs to allow your body, particularly those fickle tendons, to adapt to load change in a positive way.  Ideally I would suggest beginning with 2-3 runs per week, depending on your fitness and background exercise load.

There are some great running apps out there, like ‘Couch to Five K’s’.  There is however no prescription or one size fits all approach.  Listening to your body is of course the ultimate feedback tool.  It is unrealistic to expect to be pain free, as pain of course is a part of the condition of being human.  Little niggles are a fabulous feedback tool.  If they settle, there is unlikely any need to worry.  However, consistent niggles, pains that are impacting your sleep or pushing beyond a comfortable intensity warrant a trip to a running physio for a check-up.

Just like there is no one size fits all level of load, the same applies to form.  A high cadence, with a shorter stride, are often helpful tools to try when niggles present.  That and a nice soft land.  We certainly don’t want to hear you pounding that pavement!  We see some pretty interesting running styles, and they don’t always wind up with a running injury.  A little tweaking with some assistance from a physio can be useful to keep you on track when pain presents.  It isn’t surprising to see people revert to their normal style however once the body readapts following injury.

The jury is out on how important strength is, which can have many a running physio in debate.  There seems to be evidence to suggest that strength helps with performance and efficiency.  Certainly, many a running physio would advocate for specific strengthening exercises to reduce injury and get you back on track, pardon the pun, when injuries emerge.

So, don those running shoes that bring a smile, but keep it slow, build gently and listen to your body.  And if in doubt, our running physios at South City are here to help.


Lara Elger