Many people have started jogging or brisk-walking regularly to get out of the house during this weeks-long COVID-19 pandemic. Now, with many public parks re-opening across South Florida, even more runners, walkers and cyclists are likely heading out.
Face coverings are still required if you are close to other people, who may also be exercising, as social distancing rules remain in place.
But for those beginners who started jogging or brisk-walking during the pandemic, it’s also very important to keep in mind that South Florida’s heat and humidity — combined with a homemade cloth face covering — can be a formula for dehydration — if you don’t take precautions.
Beginning runners and cyclists need to condition themselves to avoid potentially serious overuse injuries. And they need to make sure that whatever face covering they use doesn’t restrict breathing, or fog up any eyeglasses they may be wearing.
All sports activities require proper stretching exercises and warm-ups, along with proper hydration throughout whatever course you take. But running can be especially tough on joints, muscles and overall health from repetitive impact. Always consult with your physician before starting a running program, particularly if you have underlying health issues such as high blood pressure.
“Most injuries occur because people run too far and too often without properly building up the necessary flexibility, strength and techniques. Your body needs to adapt before increasing your mileage or speed,” said Christopher Hodgkins, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon with Miami Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Institute.
Baptist Health Primary Care’s Gabriel Solti-Grasz, M.D. says preventing dehydration is key, and there’s a simple recipe for that – water or a sports drink with electrolytes, which help your body function properly, including regulating heart rate and maintaining a healthy body temperature.
“People often don’t drink water or liquids until they begin to feel thirsty,” said Dr. Solti-Grasz. “But thirst is an indication that the process of dehydration has begun.”
Dr. Solti-Grasz recommends drinking water before going out in the heat and continuing to drink water regularly for the duration of time spent outside. If exercising in the heat, he recommends drinking a sports drink with electrolytes to replenish nutrients, such as salt and potassium. These, he says, are lost quickly during exertion in high temperatures or high humidity.
Here are 5 tips for healthy, injury-free running:
1. Avoid Doing Too Much, Too Soon
They are referred to as the “terrible too’s” — doing too much, too soon and too fast. The body requires time, rest and proper nutrition for sustaining a regular running program. If you are training for long-distance running, such as half-marathons or full marathons, then muscles and joints need to recover throughout a typical six-month training program.
2. Proper Hydration/Nutrition
South Florida is notorious for its heat and humidity and runners need to take extra care in staying properly hydrated. Learn how to measure your “sweat rate,” which is based on the amount of liquid your body loses after an hour of exercise. By calculating your sweat rate, you can better evaluate what you should drink to replace lost fluid and help avoid injuries. Long-distance runners need to replenish calories and they need more carbohydrates than most people.
3. Listen to Your Body
Most running injuries, commonly involving knees, the feet, the Achilles heel or the hamstring, don’t appear suddenly. They usually provide slow-developing warning signs that should not be ignored. Normally, these red flags include aches, soreness or a persistent pain. It’s up to each runner to heed the signs and see a doctor before serious injury develops. If signs persist after proper rest and ice/heat treatments, a physician may recommend physical therapy.
4. Get the Right Running Shoes
Don’t underestimate the importance of the proper running shoes, especially for long-distance runners. An estimated 15 percent to 20 percent of running injuries involve the feet. Plantar fasciitis, small tears or inflammation of the tendons and ligaments from heel to toes, is usually the No. 1 foot complaint among runners. Those runners with very high or very low arches are more vulnerable, so the properly-fitted running shoes are vital for distance athletes. There is no single shoe that is best for runners. You should find one that best supports and fits your unique feet.
5. Monitor Progress/Set Goals
Detailed workout logs and periodic goals can keep you from those overuse injuries. Keeping a journal of how you did and how you felt during each run can help you determine if a trip to the doctor is necessary. For example, you may notice during one weekend run that your knees started aching. If the ache worsens, you then have a precise record to share with your doctor regarding the start and duration of the pain. Monitoring progress and setting realistic goals are important tools for both avoiding common injuries and keeping motivated.