Spring has sprung! Are you ready to run?
April 22, 2024

As the snow banks melt away and the trails of Point Pleasant Park appear dry and bare once more, runners across the HRM have the sense that spring is in the air. Whether you’re gearing up for Blue Nose Race Weekend with Team Myles, running endless hill repeats in preparation for Cabot Trail Relay, or preparing for the start of the Run Nova Scotia Road Race Series with the Bee Hive Fives, it’s the most exciting time of the year for all runners.

It is also perhaps one of the most risky times of the year for runners. When starting any new physical activity program, appropriate and progressive loading is a key factor to ensure an individual can stay healthy and make progress towards their activity goals. Running is no exception. A majority of running injuries are caused by doing too much, too soon. This may include doing too much volume (total distance), too much intensity (faster paces), or too much frequency (more frequent runs between recovery time). On the flip side, ensuring proper recovery is also important to reduce the risk of tissue overload that leads to running injuries. This includes getting enough sleep, and fueling with appropriate types and amounts of food to meet the demands of your exercise.

So how can you ensure your training is appropriate to prevent injury? While there is no silver bullet (even the best in the world still experience injuries that require time off running and missing goal races), there are strategies you can use to minimize your risk of injury while still enjoying all of the physical, mental, and social benefits of running:

  1. Start low, build slow. As you begin your training, it is best to start at low mileage and low intensity. This may mean anything from 5 to 30+ minutes of running at a time depending on the individual, and should be completed at an effort where you could hold a brief conversation with someone who is running with you. A standard rule for building your training is the 10% rule, meaning you should only increase your amount of training by 10% in any given week to avoid increasing too fast.
  2. Employ cross training. Cross training for runners is a wide umbrella-term that includes most non-running activities which may provide adaptations to improve your running ability. This could include things like low impact cardio like cycling or elliptical (which benefit the cardiovascular system without putting as much strain on the musculoskeletal system) or yoga (which promotes tissue mobility and proprioception) to name a few.
  3. Find a coach and/or running club. No one knows your body like you do, but a good running coach will know how to apply injury prevention principles in a weekly running program. A coach’s guidance can be helpful in navigating when you need more rest from a big week of training, or when you’re ready to progress your running to the next level.

In addition to these strategies, working with healthcare providers you trust is a key part of both preventing and addressing the aches and injuries that may arise as you continue running. Physiotherapists can help by assessing and treating joints and tissues commonly affected in running injuries, and can provide strategies to continue remaining active while working on a full return to run schedule. Some tools commonly used by physiotherapists include biomechanical assessment, load management strategies, soft tissue mobilization, and strength training.

Remember you are what you eat!

Running distances 5K, 10K, 1⁄2 Marathon, or Marathons can affect nutrition recommendations on hydration, carbohydrates, and protein recommendations. Each person has their own unique nutritional needs and aspects such as height, weight, age, environment, intensity, and sweat rates all contribute to individual nutritional needs and so much more that can impact sports nutrition.

Running brings unique nutritional challenges! Oftentimes a common challenge is reducing gut upset. However, nutrition timing and choosing particular foods can greatly decrease gut distress while running.

Want to learn more about your own nutritional needs for running? Book an appointment with Scotia Physiotherapy’s Morgan King, RD.

Author Jacob Halloran, PT, started running in junior high at Chedebucto Education Centre in Guysborough, NS. Since then, he has run two Boston Marathons (2017, 2018), was co-captain of the Dalhousie Tigers (2020) and Western Mustangs (2022) men’s cross country teams, and most recently won the 2023 Run Nova Scotia Performance Series. Jacob currently volunteers as an assistant coach with the Dalhousie Tigers cross country teams and has a special interest in working with runners of all levels to develop strength, address injuries, and return to pain-free running.