6 Strategies for Pain-Free Running

Q I started running two months ago and I’m up to 30 minutes. I find I’m always sore in my shins, knee and sometimes hamstring. I sit a lot during the day. I run every other day, warm up and cool down walking and stretch! There is always soreness during or after the run. I’m starting to wonder what’s going on. Any thoughts? – LORI


A It sounds like you have the makings of a great running program. Let’s see if we can resolve the continual soreness with a few strategies.


Stand up and move.

The one thing that jumps out at me when reading your habits is the sitting (which I happen to be doing right now writing this blog). When we sit a lot, it de-activates the gluteal muscles and creates tightness in the front of the hip (hip flexors). This can translate to poor stabilisation stride for stride and in turn, create all kinds of aches and pains (knee, ITB, hip…). Set a kitchen timer for every 30-45 minutes and get up and move. I do a minute of squats or lunges, climb the stairs, walk around the house doing mini chores. This will help retain mobility in your muscles and joints.


Actively warm up – backwards.

A progressive walking warm up will bridge the gap from a resting state to running more with less stress to the body. Start easy for the first minute, then continue to dial up the walking speed every minute until you’re just under the running threshold. After two minutes of brisk walking to warm up, carefully turn around and walk backwards for 15-20 seconds. Alternate forward and backward walking for two minutes (15/15). It will open your hips and better prepare your body for the running workout ahead.


Pace yourself by feel rather than your watch.

Your daily running pace is like the stock market. It will vary fast and slow based on what you ate, how you slept, stress, training and recovery and more! When you run by how you feel on the day, you make the most of every run by avoiding over or under taxing your body. Since you are new to running, stick with easy effort runs for another few months to build a strong foundation. Easy means the ability to run and have a conversation at the same time.


Expand your flexibility horizons.

Include regular foam rolling or deep tissue release work. Just a few minutes will aid in keeping your muscles and joints tension free and mobile. It mimics that of the work of your massage therapist so it’s like getting a mini massage every day.


Mind the gap.

Be cautious when adding new terrain, intensity or anything else to your new running routine. Running hills is a great way to build leg strength and stamina, but too much can cause problems. Taking your runs to the roads from the sidewalk can put strain on the ITB and knee from the camber in the road. Gingerly weave new things into your running recipe and all will go smoothly and without pain.


Think outside the run.

Many times aches and pains can arise from the quality of the foods we consume. Taking one small step in cleaning up your daily food choices toward unprocessed and plant based can decrease muscle and joint pain, increase your energy, and improve the quality of your runs! The K.I.S.S. rule applies here: If it has more than five ingredients listed or you can’t pronounce any of them, it’s not on the clean list. The more gradually you start to reach for clean goods, the more the habit will stick.


Count your steps.

Your form can play a significant role in the soreness factor. By focussing on maintaining a quick turnover, you can decrease the impact forces on your body and even run faster! Try this: In the middle of your next run, count the number of steps your right foot takes for one minute. If you come in much less than 88 steps, you could be over-striding and covering too much ground in between steps which increases the impact forces. Improve the efficiency of your stride by focussing on taking shorter, quicker steps. For those that run to music, there are a lot of great devices that track cadence. I run to free Podrunner.com mixes at 180-182 beats per minute (90-91 per foot) when I’m focussing on cadence work. Be mindful to shorten your stride when doing this. If you speed up your stride rate, but keep the same length, it will make for a very tough workout.


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