5 Running Tips from the Experts at ATI Physical Therapy
Matt and Tyler Nohren are twin brothers who work as Sports Medicine Supervisors with ATI Physical Therapy. As athletic trainers, who have more than two decades of combined experience working with athletes and are avid runners themselves, they know a thing or two about the sport and offer a few tips for a safe and healthy running season.
1. Listen to your body.
Pain is the body telling you there is a biomechanical or musculoskeletal problem that needs addressing. If you notice something doesn’t feel right when you train, don’t ignore it.
“The old saying of ‘no pain, no gain’ does not apply to the running population,” says Matt.
Instead, treat the affected area immediately with ice, stretching and, most importantly, rest when needed.
2. Vary your training and surfaces.
“When signing up for a mid- to long-distance race, too many people get locked in on the idea of having to run daily,” explains Tyler. “The constant shock and impact of running every day often leads to overuse injuries such as shin splints or stress fractures.”
To give your body a break, Tyler encourages biking or swimming one to two times a week. On days when you do run, you should have better aerobic capacity and your legs will be thankful for time off from the high impact.
If you are one who doesn’t have access to a bike or a pool, Tyler suggests varying your running surfaces. If you usually run on a sidewalk or road, try a softer surface like a track or grass.
3. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
This is a tip you’ll probably never stop hearing, which is because it’s so important. Staying properly hydrated is particularly key when you’re training for a longer race or running a race on a hot day.
“Rule of thumb is if you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated,” says Tyler. “So be sure to consume adequate amounts of water at all times.”
By doing so, you will find that you will have decreased levels of muscle soreness, which in turn improves your race times.
4. Stretch the entirety of your calves.
The tricep surea complex, better known as your calf muscle, is comprised of the gastrocnemius muscle (the one that everyone knows and stretches) and the soleus muscle (the one the everyone ignores). An unstretched soleus may be the culprit if you experience pain or tightness in the lower calf, close to the Achilles’ tendon. To stretch this muscle, unlock your knee joint slightly when doing a calf stretch (wall push stretch or a toe-up stretch), Matt advises.
5. After a race, expect to be sore.
“The best post-race tip I can advise to runners is to expect soreness,” says Matt. “The onset of which may not happen for two to three days after the race."
This soreness can be treated with proper post-race practices: hydration (of course); taking a cool-down run; gently stretching the major muscles of your lower body, including your calves, quads, hamstrings, hip flexors and glutes; and eating a snack with protein and carbohydrates to replenish your energy stores. Matt recommends an apple with peanut butter, trail mix, an energy bar or, his personal favorite, a PB&J sandwich.