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Tiger Toning: Running pains for rookies

Tiger Toning.“I went for my first run yesterday and now I can barely walk. I feel like my calves are going to fall off. Does this mean I am not built to be a runner?” – Victoria Jones, MA History

 

Brace yourself, Victoria. I have some earth-shattering news for you: You are normal! In fact, if you started running for the first time and didn’t feel any soreness the next day, you should likely invest in a cape and spandex and return to Gotham City.

Pain, of course, is a message from your body that should be interpreted with caution. Anytime you experience an injury during a run (or any other activity), you should seek proper care to ensure it heals efficiently and doesn’t become worse. Always remember that if you are concerned about a potential injury, get it checked by a professional.

Back to Victoria though, pain is a natural part of learning to run. When we push our bodies beyond what they are used to, they often push back. This is part of the adjustment and growth associated with the road to a healthier and fitter body.

While I have run short distances regularly over the past decade, in January I decided to train for the Blue Nose Half Marathon. As I passed the threshold my body was used to, I began experiencing all kinds of new soreness. My friends can attest to the fact I whined a lot leading up to the race. This was not an indication that my body was not “built” for running, but simply a sign it was not accustomed to the new levels of performance I was asking of it.

That being said, there were moments where I had pains that went beyond what would be considered a normal level of soreness. On these occasions, I had a professional check them out and followed their instructions for recovery. These were only minor setbacks during my training and I successfully ran the race in May.

 

Now that we’ve concluded that you are, in fact, “built” for running, what can you do to minimize soreness and decrease your risk of injury? Here are a few tips: 

Stretching: There are those who firmly believe stretching is a government conspiracy (or, at least, not necessary). There are plenty of studies, however, that show proper stretching can help prevent injuries and decrease pain related to soreness. Learning proper stretching is suggested to ensure you are not setting yourself up for self-induced injury.

Proper footwear: Sneakers just ain’t what they used to be. Back in the good ol’ days, you went to the store, grabbed a pair of shoes in your size and went about your business. Now, we have great shops such as Aerobics First and The Running Room, which make a special effort to ensure you are getting footwear that works for you and your running/walking style. You can also get shoes that alleviate some of the stress on your body, especially if you are a first-timer.

Progression overload: This theme comes out in many of the articles I write: Start at your level and take it slow. You need to challenge your body in order to see change and growth, but if you do too much too quickly, you may take your body past the level it is ready for. You are also far more likely to frustrate yourself and give up.

 

There are many great resources for new runners and I suggest those interested read appropriate literature or join a running group to get set on your path to success. Would “no pain, no gain” be too clichéd of a statement here?

 

Send your fitness-related questions to cghebb@dal.ca and check back in the Gazette weekly to see if your question gets answered.

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Colin Hebb

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