This article originally appeared in the York Road Runners Fall Newsletter.
The change in weather each fall is a great time to transition to outdoor activity or begin physical exercise. Exercise has many health benefits, but it can also improve your overall mood by releasing neurotransmitters called endorphins. Running is a great way of achieving this. However, there are some general precautions you should consider prior to starting an exercise program.
Environmental Considerations When Running
Wear Reflective Clothing
Changes in the leaves, as well as decreased sunlight can make you more prone to being struck by a motor vehicle. This is especially important if you are running around dusk or dawn. Consider wearing a headlamp around these times to avoid tripping on any leaf covered path anomalies.
Continue to wear sweat absorbing clothing while summer comes to a close. This will help prevent any heat related illnesses. As the temperature changes, start dressing in layers so that you can remove clothing during your activity to allow your body to acclimate.
Trail running may be more aesthetically pleasing. However, there are multiple risk factors to consider. Watch out for holes in the ground, puddles, wet leaves, and fallen trees. These are all great ways to accidentally obtain an injury. Remain focused during the run and scan ahead for possible obstacles.
Training Considerations for Fall Running
Your mind may convince your body that it may be able to get off the couch or pool chair to running prolonged distances, without second thought. However, your mind may be setting up your body for injury. Injuries come in many shapes and forms. For example, they can be simple overuse tendinitis, shin splints (Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome) or muscle strains to stress fractures in your bones or nerve entrapments. A general consideration is that you should not increase your intensity, duration, or frequency by more than 10% per week.
Bones are the supporting structure to allow your muscles to propel your body. Bone health is extremely important to keeping your body healthy and functioning as it can. Consider adding Vitamin D supplementation, if you are not already taking this. A study evaluating Navy recruits had a 100% increase in fracture if they had Vitamin D deficiency. I recommend 2000 international units of Vitamin D3 per day, which you may find at your local pharmacy. As well, consider adding calcium supplementation if you do not obtain enough calcium from your diet. The ranges vary, depending on your age bracket and sex. Further information can be found online from the National Institute of Health.
Running shoes come in all shapes and sizes. Your foot shape can sometimes dictate what type of shoe will be best for activity. Flat feet versus feet with high arches can predispose you to different injuries. However, athletic companies have formulated different shoes to help prevent some of these injuries. A podiatrist, sports medicine doctor, or foot and ankle surgeon can evaluate your foot structure to formulate suggestions on what type of shoes may be best. As well, Runners World has a great site to match your foot to certain shoes. Make sure to break in new shoes gradually and to replace shoes when they have reached their lifespan (around 350-400 miles, generally)
More than 40 miles per week or 12 hours per week of intense activity has been shown to increase injury risk by upwards of 100%. As well, setting yourself up for something called overtraining syndrome is a possibility. This is where your body becomes too fatigued to perform at the level that you would like to push it. If you are training for a longer distance race including half marathons and above, keep this in mind.
Article Authored by Dr. Bryan Hess