Love it or hate it, running is an efficient, accessible form of exercise that provides a host of physical, mental and social benefits. But the only way to begin enjoying these benefits is by lacing up your shoes and taking the first step. The establishment of a personal goal can be the best way for new runners to stay on track. A 5K can serve perfectly as this initial goal, but training safely is key to success.
5K is short for five kilometers, a distance equal to 3.1 miles. This distance is an ideal, low-risk milestone for beginner runners, explains Annie Neurohr, running and biomotion specialist at Sinai Rehab Center’s Advanced Orthopedic Therapy Running Clinic. “I think 5K is the best distance to start with. . .I see injured runners all the time, and it’s very rare that I see people because they’re training for a 5K.”
Annie encourages new runners to start with a guided training program. These programs, such as the popular “Couch to 5K,” provide new runners with a virtual training regimen that guides them toward the ultimate goal of running a 5K in as little as six weeks. Training program or not, Annie emphasizes one key rule to which all novice runners should adhere: “You don’t want [running] to be an everyday activity.” By taking at least one day off between runs, Neurohr explains, runners give their bodies the time they need to recover, making the hobby far more sustainable in the long term.
Another way to reduce the chance of injury and soreness is stretching. Before the start of a run, Annie recommends dynamic warmups, which prioritize continuous, repetitive movement over long-held stretches. A dynamic warmup, which can include high-knees, butt-kicks, and other quick movements, helps direct blood flow to the parts of the body used in running. After runs, Annie recommends “restorative” stretching, which involves less movement and focuses on long-duration stretches of specific muscles, such as the glutes and hamstrings. Longer duration stretching helps mitigate post-run stiffness and promotes continued mobility.
Annie also recommends strength training for runners at every skill and experience level. “If every runner strength-trained two to three times a week, I would not have my job.” For beginners, she encourages a single-double split, meaning a single-leg exercise, a double-leg exercise and a split-stance exercise, in which one leg is placed in front of the other. “The biggest risk of injury is typically linked to training load and overtraining. I think strength training is the biggest tool people can use to prevent injuries and I think mobility is a close second,” says Neurohr.
The Sinai Running Rehabilitation Program, part of Advanced Orthopedic Therapy at Sinai Rehab Center, specializes in performance enhancement and injury evaluation and management.
To learn more and make an appointment with Annie and the running clinic team, visit: https://www.lifebridgehealth.org/RIAO/RunningClinic.aspx