Spring is here, and as the sun begins to make its triumphant return, many people are dusting off their running shoes and hitting the pavement.
Running is a great way to stay healthy and fit, but it can also do serious damage to your lower back if you don’t take the necessary precautions before, during, and after each run.
Don’t let a sore back keep you from staying active this spring and follow these 6 tips for pain-free running all season long.
It may seem like an obvious step, but you would be amazed at how few of people warm up sufficiently before each run. Your body is like a machine, and there are a lot of moving parts that can break down if not taken care of properly.
Before you begin each workout, perform dynamic warm up exercises to make sure all these moving parts – not just your legs – are ready for the task ahead.
Not only will this help prevent injury throughout your body, it will also increase your heart rate and get healthy blood flow pumping throughout your body, helping limber up your muscles and joints.
In addition to warming up, stretching is an excellent way to prepare your body for a run, especially the often-overlooked back muscles. Even if you don’t plan on running everyday, you should maintain a regular stretching schedule to ensure your muscles are loose and limber.
Don’t forget to focus on your back to ensure it can withstand the stress during a regular jogging session. A great time to get your stretching in is right when you wake up, as it will be easier to maintain a schedule and can help give you that kick start you need to start your day happy and healthy.
Wear Supportive Shoes
Most people only consider their footwear choices when they feel pain developing in their feet, but the right shoes can make all the difference in preventing pain from developing in your back as well.
When we run, we place an extraordinary amount of stress on our body, especially in our lower backs. With proper footwear support, this force is dampened, in turn decreasing the probability of injury and pain.
Also, knowing when to retire your running shoes depends on a number of factors, but a good rule of thumb is to buy a new pair once the cushioning support in the soles begin to wear out.
Opt for Soft Surfaces When Possible
Just as wearing the right shoes can help absorb the impact that running places on your back, so does running on softer surfaces.
If you spend most of your time running on concrete pavement, your body will begin to wear down much faster than if you opt for a more supportive surface. Stick to rubber tracks or dirt trails whenever possible and try to keep days running on concrete to a minimum – your back will thank you in the long run.
Establish a Strong Strength and Fitness Base
One of the primary reasons people new to jogging get back pain is because they jump into their exercise program without first establishing a strong strength and fitness base.
Running requires so much more than mental toughness and physical strength in your legs – the supporting muscles in your core and back must also be strong enough to support the stress running inflicts on the body.
A strong strength and fitness base in your core helps support the forces that transfer through your pelvis, in turn decreasing the probability of your body growing overexerted and getting injured as you run.
Stop Jogging at the First Sign of Pain
Even with the right shoes, an ample warm-up, and sticking to softer surfaces, you may still begin to notice the early signs of low back pain while you jog.
The best way to keep these minor aches and pains from turning into a serious back injury is to stop running as soon as you notice first symptoms.
Stop and walk for a few blocks or laps to see if the pain subsides on its own. Sometimes this should be enough for the pain to pass, but if it doesn’t go away after a short break, take the day off and see how you feel in the morning.
If you are planning on starting a running program to get in shape this spring, remember to build up your strength and endurance gradually to avoid injury.
It is much better to start slow and have delayed results than to get injured and be sidelined for the sunny season ahead. If any pain begins to develop in your back, take a break and ice the affected region – it could be the difference between an active spring and a long battle with chronic pain.