Running is not only an excellent exercise for its cardiovascular and mental health benefits. A 2018 meta-analysis of research on running found that runners have approximately a 25 to 30 percent lower rate of all-cause mortality on follow-up than non-runners. And you don’t have to run every day to see the benefits. Running just once a week can make significant improvements to your health. So if you are looking to live longer (yeah, running has been shown to do that too), here are some tips from Bend Physical Therapist and running aficionado Ron Carpenter, PT, to help you do it safely.

Start slow.

We aren’t referring to how quickly you ramp up (but it is crucial not to add mileage too quickly). For this tip, Ron is referring to not starting your run out of your front door or immediately after getting out of the car if you drive to your running starting point. Instead, start your run by walking a couple of blocks to warm up your body. 

Stretching techniques may vary.  

Many schools of thought discuss whether static or dynamic stretching is better. The answer is that it depends on when it is being done.

Dynamic stretching (think movement), is excellent before exercise because it helps prime the body for the work ahead. But limit your stretches to just a few light stretches as part of your warmup. After your run is the best time for traditional static stretching. Foam rolling is also helpful post-workout to stretch the myofascial system and aid with fluid movement to speed up recovery.

Variety keeps things interesting.  

Your fitness level can plateau doing the same run day in and day out. Your body is adaptable and responds to challenges. Try varying your running location, speed, and mileage to keep your mind and body engaged. Trail running is great because you have different terrain to challenge your body and varying natural features to keep your mind engaged. 

Choose Your Running Surfaces Wisely.

Ron recommends running on dirt because it is the easiest on your body. Plus, the uneven terrain works proprioception, which helps with balance. If roads are your only or preferred option, choose asphalt over concrete. Choose roads that have wide shoulders or bike lanes, and be sure to wear a headlamp if running at night or in the early morning hours.

Rest days are as important as training days.

As you age, recovery slows, making rest days more critical for mental and physical recovery. From a mental standpoint, rest days provide you with a fresh motivation to get out there the next day. 

Depending on the activity level and training, a rest day may mean not exercising and knowing that your body will be better for giving yourself a break. For others, rest days may mean cross-training to work other parts of your body to help prevent injuries. 

“We often get very one-dimensional in sports – just running, just biking, just swimming – but variance allows a person to build different muscle groups and work different parts of the body,” said Ron.

Less is more.

Runners need to be in tune with their bodies. For injury prevention, this may mean stopping your run a little before you wanted to when you are tired. 

“People often get caught up with training logs and attaining a big number, but this isn’t necessarily the best way to approach training,” said Ron. 

No recovery and overtraining are likely to cause issues. You may not be up to a run one day because you are tired, but you still go out and run because you know you usually feel better after. This way of thinking can result in an injury. It is okay to permit yourself to rest. Even if you are out in the middle of a run, if you aren’t feeling it, stop. 

Final Thoughts

The phrase “runner’s high” got its popularity for a reason. Running is quite addictive, and there is a wonderful endorphin rush that comes post-workout. Being smart and taking care of your body can go a long way to ensuring you stay injury-free. If you have pain that hasn’t gone away within a week or two, come in for an evaluation. We want to help you get back out there as quickly and safely as possible.

For more information, including videos and tips for performing the exercises recommended in this article, check our Facebook and Instagram pages. You can be a runner for life. If you’d like us to evaluate you, give our Eastside or Westside location a call to make an appointment.

We look forward to helping you feel better and experience every day.