Helpful Tips Every New Runner Needs

Helpful Tips Every New Runner Needs to Know

If you have just started running, congratulations! You are making the right decision to stay fit and healthy and, with proper training, you may even achieve a professional level. There are some hurdles to overcome, one of them being the first occurrences of muscle fever, but with diligence you will certainly succeed in reaching your running goals.


In today’s article we will try to dispel a few myths by offering you helpful and valid tips which will help you stay focused, and make the right choices in your training and running style.

These tips were compiled by various trainers and coaches who observed their students along the years and noted the common mistakes they were all making.


By following the advice we offer here, you will be able to develop a correct running gait, effective warm-up and cool down techniques, and will certainly not fall victim to ineffective, or even dangerous, “tips and tricks” shared on the internet.


Here we go:


  1. Breathe Naturally

You do not have to develop any specific breathing technique to gain more endurance on the running track. Running is natural to the human body, so breathing during running should also be natural. Of course, as you continue running, your body will need more oxygen, so your breathing will become heavier. This is perfectly normal. Instead of worrying about how you breathe, keep your eye on the track and free your mind from worrisome thoughts.


  1. Walking in the Middle of a Run Is Not Cheating

As a beginner, your body is not fully trained to withstand a long run without taking some breaks. Slowing down your running to a brisk walk is not cheating on your training. You simply need to allow your muscles to get used to the new kind of effort they are subject to. As you gain more endurance, you will be able to run a longer distance, without taking walking breaks.


  1. Drinking Water Does Not Cause Side Stitch

Side stitch is a sudden pang of pain which runners feel in their side, under the ribs. For a long time there has been a myth running around (pun intended) that drinking while running causes the side stitch. This is absolutely not true. On the contrary, you are encouraged to stay hydrated, especially during the hot season or during long distance runs. The side stitch is most likely caused by not breathing correctly (see item 1 in this article).


  1. Do Not Just Sit Down during a Resting Day

Training schedules have a few resting days during the week. You may be tempted to take the “resting” literally, and sit on the sofa watching TV. It is a resting day, right? Not exactly. If you are not running, you should be doing other forms of cross-training to improve your muscle flexibility and endurance. Stretching exercises, swimming, or cardio exercises are a perfect way of keeping your body focused during the resting day. If in doubt, always consult with your coach and discover the ideal training schedule for you.


  1.  Injuries Do Happen

No matter how careful you are, you will get a running injury at a certain point. You may suffer a sprain, or the runner’s knee, or a hamstring strain. This does not mean that you should stop running or refrain from becoming a better runner out of fear of injury. Instead, learn what you have to do after you suffer an injury and how to minimise your recovery time.


As a parting thought, remember that running is your choice and the only person you are in a competition with is yourself. Take your time to build a training system which works for you and helps you reach your fullest potential.

5 Reasons Why Running Is the Best Therapy

5 Reasons Why Running Is the Best Therapy

Running is more than just training and building endurance. It is also one of the best ways of relieving stress, spending quality “me” time, and it is recommended by many doctors as a side therapy in case of depression and anxiety. But even perfectly healthy people can benefit from the joys and the health boost of going for a run periodically. It is one of the simplest and least expensive ways of staying fit and keeping various medical conditions at bay (such as cardiovascular diseases, obesity, and diseases of the muscular system).


Various doctors and physical therapists state that free running, either on track or in nature, is one of the best ways to focus and sharpen your mind, and that this is one of the reasons why top entrepreneurs and visionary businesspeople include running in their daily routine.


These are just a few of the benefits you can get from taking up running (besides a firm and toned body):


  1. You Can Relieve Stress and Negative Thoughts

There are a lot of phrases and sayings which revolve around running away from problems, worries and stress. While ditching and avoiding responsibilities is never recommended, it is good to go out every once in a while to run and sweat out your worries and negative thoughts.


Running in a park or on off-road trails is a great distraction from your inner thoughts by captivating your attention with the changing scenery, and encouraging you to focus on beautiful images and positive thoughts.


  1. You Can Find Unexpected Inspiration for Great Ideas

As you run, your mental energy is released as it has to focus on keeping your body in the right position, avoiding obstacles in front of you and keeping track of your direction. Thus, you stop churning unproductive thoughts, and your mind can suddenly identify that brilliant idea you have been looking for and stressing yourself over for days.


Running brings great clarity of mind even on a physical level: the accelerated blood flow brings more oxygen to your brain, thus making it work faster and better.


  1. It Is a Great Way of Socializing in Silence

A lot of people run side by side, saying nothing to each other. Yet you can feel the sense of satisfaction and companionship between them. Running is one of the best ways of bonding with friends and with your significant other.


Without any need to compete against each other, or to show off your skills and endurance, you can enjoy a good run knowing that you are not alone, even in an unknown and unexplored environment. At the end of the run, you will sense the increased level of trust and closeness to your running partner.


  1. Free Running Puts Your Whole Body to Work

Professional trainers say that you do not run only with your legs, you run even with your eyes and brain. This is perfectly true. As you run, you angle your body to create a sense of aerodynamics, you sync your arm movements with your legs, you teach your lungs to breathe in and out more efficiently, and you scan the road ahead of you and in a split second determine the best route to take.


  1. Running Boosts Your Self Confidence

For amateur runners, the first mile is a milestone that seems too hard to attain. They remain mentally blocked in to a place where they see themselves as unable and unfit to cover this distance, and this way of thinking encroaches on everything else – including their professional abilities. As they overcome the first milestone, and then the next, they start demolishing all the mental barriers holding them back from becoming a better person.


This shows that running is not just good for the body, it is also good for your mind and for your self-esteem. It is therapeutic in the sense that it opens up ways in which you can become stronger physically and mentally; it helps you find peace within yourself and the sense of accomplishment without stress and self-doubt.


Lower Leg Injuries in Running: Common Causes and Treatment

Lower leg injury is quite common both among professional and amateur runners. It occurs due to undue strain on the muscles and ligaments – generally caused by pushing yourself beyond your fitness abilities. Today we will cover some of the most common types of lower leg injuries and offer helpful advice for treating them.


Shin Splints

The most frequent type of lower leg injury is the shin splint (more commonly referred to in the plural, shin splints). Shin splints cause you to feel pain along the inner edge of the shin bone, between the knee and the ankle. Other symptoms of shin splints of varying degrees of severity are:

  • Increasing pain in the front lower part of the leg (above the ankle) as you continue training
  • Mild swelling of the lower leg
  • Numbness and weakness in your foot, causing an inability to support your body weight properly
  • Tenderness or soreness along the inner part of the leg starting from the knee down


The main cause of shin splints is infrequent exercising, following a pattern of intense training (running), taking a break from physical exercises and then returning to intense training. It is not an injury which happens overnight, but as an accumulation of stress and effort.


Shin splints can be treated by following the RICE method: rest, ice, compression and elevation. Your doctor may also prescribe pain medication or send you for further tests and investigations in case the symptoms persist. In some cases, the symptoms associated with shin splints are for more severe conditions such as fracture or compartment syndrome.



Tendonitis is another form of common lower leg injury in runners. The most frequent type is Achilles tendonitis. The main cause for this injury is a sudden increase in uphill or speed running. Also, if you switch from wearing running shoes to wearing racing shoes without allowing your legs to get used to the new type of shoe progressively, this can also cause Achilles tendonitis.


The symptoms of tendonitis are:

  • Pain when stretching and contracting the muscles in your lower leg
  • Reduced mobility and flexibility
  • Swelling and tenderness in the back of your leg, above the heel


Tendonitis is also treated using the RICE method. In addition, your physical therapist may recommend a series of exercises to gradually increase the strength and endurance of your muscles and tendons. Only rare and severe situations (such as the breaking of the Achilles tendon) lead to surgery.


Compartment Syndrome

As we mentioned above, some of the symptoms of compartment syndrome can be mistaken for shin splints. In order to understand how compartment syndrome occurs, you have to know what happens inside your leg while you are running. Fuelled by the effort and increased blood flow, muscles will expand their volume by up to 20%. If the fascia (the tendon tying them to the muscles) is too tight and preventing the expansion,

it will cause strangulation, blocking the blood inside a muscle compartment and putting pressure on the nerves.Lower Leg Injuries in Running


Thus, your muscle will feel numb and painful, and will not work properly (contract or relax according to the movements you want to perform). In case of severe compartment syndrome, the pain in your lower leg will only start at a certain point during running and quickly increase to an unbearable level. The pain and swelling subside as you cease running, this is why it is difficult to diagnose this condition.


Surgery can be an option to treat compartment syndrome. However, patients experience complete recovery after the surgery, even returning to their professional athlete activities.


Apart from these types of lower leg injury, there is also inflammation of the large muscles in the posterior part of your leg – but this is a very common and simple to treat condition, requiring only the RICE method and a progressive increase of your fitness training.


Achilles Tendon Injury – What Rehab is Forgetting

The Achilles tendon is at risk of injury with high load. Runners have a 15 times greater risk of Achilles rupture and 30 times greater risk of tendinopathy than sedentary individuals.

The Achilles tendon is the thickest and strongest tendon in the body. The three calf muscle attach to the heal via the Achilles tendon.

“Overcoming what was deemed impossible is what I will take with me and cherish the most…That (coming back from injury) will be the number-one thing that stands out because I wasn’t even able to walk.”

– Donovan Bailey (Olympic 100 m sprinter talking about his rehab for his Achilles tendon rupture). After rehab he ran sub-10 seconds for the 100 metres.

Out of the 5 clinicians in Sports Physio Ireland, two of us were unfortunate to have suffered Achilles injuries. Myself a partial tear and Joey Boland a tendinopathy.  Depending on the severity of the injury the road to recovery is slightly different. The outcome of rehabilitation is positive, however, with us both returning to our representative sports. The partial tear taking slightly longer to adapt to return to play.

Recognising and Correcting Running Form Mistakes

Overuse Achilles tendon injuries (tendonopathies) can arise with increased training volume or intensity. This happens because the load is too much for the tendon to withstand. Decreased recovery time between training sessions may also be a factor. The combination of stiffness (especially in the morning) and pain at the back of the heal is a key sign of Achilles tendinopathy. Pain often reduces during activity and may be pain-free during training only to come back with a vengeance a few hours later. Continuing to train through this causes the structure of the tendon to weaken and puts you at an increased risk of rupture.

As well as looking at injury to the Achilles itself, it is important to determine the causes of the injury in the first place. Injury is often linked to calf tightness or weakness and ankle joint stiffness. Abnormal lower limb biomechanics has been shown to cause torsional stress through the tendon. Weakness around the ankles can cause a whipping like action on the Achilles. A change in playing surface or footwear or poor footwear should also be considered.

Tendons take longer to adapt to training due to their poor blood supply. Rehabilitation takes longer than muscular injuries and is generally in excess of 3 months. Rehabilitation should include loading the tendon appropriately and correcting of predisposing factors that were linked to the injury. Progressing to plyometric and sports-specific activities when the ability to withstand load increases. `

When running approximately 5 times your body weight goes through your foot as you land. The Achilles needs to be strong enough to withstand this force before you go back to running, jumping and landing. Rehabilitation often does not put enough weight through the structure during closed change activities before progressing to running. Heal raises with 15-20 kg, Reverse lunges with greater than 20kg, Squats of greater than 20kg and SLDL of 20 kg should be a realistic expectation for everyone before returning to play or their chosen activity. Distributing the weight through two separate dumbbells makes this achievable for those who struggle with upper body strength. When thinking about the high level of repetitive load that goes through the body when running these weights are not that heavy and are what the body needs to adapt.

Soft tissue therapy including mobilisation and  fractioning across the tendon are useful in improving the glide of the tendon in it’s sheath. As stickiness around the tendon is often associated with injury to the tendon.

Return to activity should be gradual.

Activity should be resumed only when local tenderness has settled and weights during rehab exercises achieved.

If long distance running is not the main aim then I would argue that the repetitive loading of that nature should be avoided. If sports are the main aim then interval running should be the focus. This is the nature of the activity they are trying to return to and also allows the tendon brief recovery periods.

Catherine Simpson

MISCP, MSc Sports Medicine

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Running Style: Forefoot Running?

Forefoot running amongst runners at the moment is the big buzz word. When speaking to runners in the clinic, it’s viewed as the optimum foot strike. While the heel strike is now seen among recreational runners as poor mechanics.

What does the research say about forefoot striking amongst runners? Most studies that have examined the strike pattern of runners have shown that heel striking is by far the most common pattern, with up to 90% (Larson et al., 2011) adopting this pattern. So it’s very fair to say that heel-strike is a pattern adopted by the majority, even amongst the holy grail of runners, the Kenyans.

But is forefoot running more economical for the everyday runner?

Gruber et al. (2013) “When the alternative footstrike pattern was performed, Forefoot running resulted in greater rates of V̇O2 than Rearfoot running in the Rearfoot group at the slow and medium speeds and across groups at the fast speeds”. So what does this mean in layman’s terms, basically that forefoot running is not more economical than rearfoot running. However, much more research is needed in this area.

So when would I ever change foot striking pattern?

One population group that it is useful to change the strike pattern is runners who present with knee pain. Research has shown that running with a forefoot strike reduces the overall forces that are absorbed through the knee itself. It’s a useful strategy to increase the overall step rate of a runner, which has a direct implication on step length during the rehabilitation process. Increasing the step rate by 5-10% will allow this to happen, but caution must be applied to this strategy as there will be increased forces placed on the calfs and Achilles tendon.

To summarsie forefoot running?

There is no research that supports increased running economy or reduced injury risk among a running population. However, it may be a useful strategy for certain population groups.

Thomas Divilly


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Iliotibial Band Syndrome-Lateral Knee Pain

Iliotibial (IT) Band Syndrome, or Lateral Knee Pain is an overuse injury caused by friction and compression of the structures between the IT band and the outside of the knee. Training errors and biomechanical abnormalities are some of the factors that predispose to IT band syndrome.

It is commonly an issue seen in cyclists, runners, army recruits and endurance athletes. IT band syndrome accounts for 15- 24% of overuse injuries in cyclists and 1.6 – 12% in runners. Pain generally worsens the longer the person persists with the sporting activity and may be associated with local swelling and inflammation of structures between the band and the inside of the knee.

A full assessment should be carried out to rule out other causes of lateral knee pain such as lateral hamstring tendinopathy, degeneration of the lateral meniscus of the knee, osteoarthritis of the lateral compartment of the knee or referred pain from the low back.

A general misconception is that the IT band can be stretched; when in fact it is just a thickening of the fibrous tissue that surrounds the thigh like a stocking and is restricted by strong attachments to the lateral side of the knee. The TFL (tensor Fascia lata) and ¾ of the gluteus maximus muscles insert into the IT band and it is these muscle that should be targeted to reduce the tension in the IT band and therefore leads to compression of the inside of the knee.

Manual soft tissue therapy through foam rolling, stretching and trigger point release of the hip musculature are useful techniques to reduce the tension through the IT band and relieve the irritation of IT band syndrome.

Catherine Simpson

MISCP MSc. Sports Medicine


Why are runners obsessed with stretching? 

Over the past year, especially since working in Sports Physio Ireland, I have been exposed to more and more middle and long distance runners. From the weekend warrior to the more serious athlete, it has been great to help them overcome and prevent injury. What is common thread among all runners is there wonder at getting injured with all the  static stretching they confess to do. “I stretch everyday” and “I have done all the stretches my Physio has given me” are often the first words out of the presenting persons mouth. So lets’s make a few points clear and concise.

  • Static stretching in research has shown not to decrease the injury risk of a person
  • Static stretching reduces short term power and performance
  • Static stretching does not increase the muscle or tendon length, it merely allows more pliability.
  • In fact, being extra flexible is more of a risk at causing injury as the ability to stabilise the muscles and joints is lost/reduced, increasing the risk of joint issues and tendinopathies.


So what is the best way to increase your range of motion in a joint/flexibility?


This may surprise most readers, but the research has shown that eccentric strengthening will increase the joint ROM and/or flexibility greater than static stretching, with also the added benefits of improving force production and reducing injury.

And especially with runners, the value of strengthening work in improving running economy and injury reduction is enormous. So next time you spend 30 minutes in front of the TV going through your stretching routine think of the added benefits doing a strength session would achieve instead.

Thomas Divily MISCP

Dublin Marathon Warm Up

As the Dublin marathon approaches, we in Sports Physio Ireland decided to show you what are ideal warm up for a runner involves. Thinking specifically the main muscle groups involved in the running, we focus on warming up our Posterior Chain, the muscles such as the calfs, hamstrings and glutes. Have a look at the video as our resident Running legend Peter Mathews goes through a sample of his warm up, all you need is a simple med ball –

The one shown can be purchased here –


Peter Mathews Pre Run Warm Up

With the Dublin marathon approaching it’s important that you implement a decent warm up before you run..

Our running expert and massage therapist Peter Mathews demonstrates a pre run Warm Up. Peter runs everyday and remains injury free because he is dedicated to his strength training, which compliments his running. Have a look at what Peter does during his warm up prior to his run.

Keep an eye out for part two. 

I encourage all my running clients to have a personalised and specific 5 minute dynamic warm up.

This method of warming will dramatically decrease your chances of injury during your run, in comparison to your typical 5 to 10 minute light jog and stretch as a warm up.

Most of our clients are time poor so here is a ‘snappy’ dynamic warm up that I think you should try out before you next run.

Joey Boland MISCP

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