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How to become a more efficient runner and avoid injury

·5 min read
Tashi Skervin-Clarke is a running coach and founder of the TSC Method. (Tashi Skervin-Clarke)
Tashi Skervin-Clarke is a running coach and founder of the TSC Method. (Tashi Skervin-Clarke)

The pandemic turned us into a nation of runners and now IRL races are finally back on the cards.

Perhaps you’re gearing up for a casual 5K, pushing yourself to take on a 10K, the Hackney Half, or dare we even mention the London Marathon come October 3, we caught up with Tashi Skervin-Clarke (@tashi_skervinclarke), running coach and founder of the TSC training method, who shared her top tips for becoming a more efficient runner and avoiding injury.

Get gait tested

First thing’s first, you need the right shoes. “Running all starts with your feet,” says Skervin-Clarke. “Make sure you’re wearing the right footwear. Those old trainers that you pulled out of your cupboard are just going to result in injury. Go and get your gait tested to ensure you’re wearing trainers that suit your feet.”

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A good warm-up will transform your run

It's the oldest saying in the book but how often are you guilty of setting off on a jog without warming up at all?

Begin with a foam roller if you have one, she advises: "Foam roll your calves, hamstrings, quads and glutes for 30 second per muscle group, per leg.

"To prepare your body for movement, dynamic stretching is more beneficial than static stretches."

Warm up

Complete three rounds of the following:

  • 5 walkouts

  • 10 walking lunges

  • 10 hamstring sweeps

  • 10 squats

  • 30 second jog (increasing jog intensity each round)

Warm down

"After running, go into a 2-3 minute light jog to flush out the legs. You may not want to stretch out immediately after a run, but when you feel ready complete the following stretches, holding each for 30 seconds.

  • Figure of 4 glute stretch: Lie with your back on the ground with both knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place your right leg over your bent left leg. You’ll have now created a figure of 4 with your legs. Place your left arm through the figure of 4, and your right arm joins to meet it outside. Now pull your right knee towards your chest. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

  • Low lunge: Lunge your right leg forwards, place your left knee on the ground and push your hips forwards. You should feel the stretch in your hip flexors. To deepen the stretch simply lift your hands overhead. Repeat on the other side for 30 seconds.

  • Standing hamstring stretch: Stand tall with your feet together. Hinge at your hips and try to get your hands as close to the ground, without bending your knees. Don’t worry about how close you are to the ground, focus on keeping your knees straight as you stretch your hamstrings but don’t force the stretch. If you feel any discomfort step your feet apart and come up a little bit higher.

  • Foam roll: Yes, again! 30 seconds per muscle group and per leg: calves, glutes, hamstrings and quads

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Don't run every day

Ever find your runs getting worse by the day? It's probably a sign of fatigue. "Running on consecutive days isn’t something I do and it’s not something I’d recommend either, unless you’re under the supervision of a coach or training for a specific endurance event," says Skervin-Clarke. “If you find that your runs get worse as the days get on it may be simply because your body is tired - you may feel 'awake', but you aren’t giving your muscles a chance to recover in between sessions. I personally prefer to run every other day."

Run at the same time on each running day

Skervin-Clarke also recommends running at the same time each day in order to ensure you’re giving yourself enough rest in between sessions. "The more you listen to your body, the more you’ll understand how it will respond to your training. I try to run at the same time each day to ensure I’m getting as much rest as possible in between runs. Make sure you don’t do speed sessions back to back and take at least a day’s rest after a long run. Rest and recovery is all a part of the process so make sure you schedule it in, just like you do your runs," she adds.

Turn off your pace

Is it best to run faster with no stops or further with some stops? Both methods have their place, says Skervin-Clarke, who recommends beginners ignore pace completely at first.

"When you are first starting out, I encourage you to focus on the amount of time you spend running, and not the distance or the pace. Before you start thinking about speed, you need to become comfortable with running. Once you’re comfortable with running your usual run, then you can start thinking about changing things up.

"Your faster runs with no stops should be shorter in distance than your slower runs with no stops that build endurance. And let's be clear, there is absolutely nothing wrong with having to stop during a run, it doesn't mean you’ve failed or your run wasn’t successful. It should be seen as a learning point. Did you start too fast? Did you fuel your body properly before the run started? Are you fully rested? Lots of different factors can help or hinder a run."

Try to avoid comparing your running journey to that of more experienced runners. "Putting too much pressure on running a certain pace takes the fun out of it and because of this, I personally run with the pace turned off my watch display. Take each run as it comes. Some days you’re going to run well, other days you won't. That’s running! Enjoy the process and foam roll your legs!"

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Grass versus hard surfaces

Which is safest to prevent injury? "Grass surfaces are a lot softer than concrete, but grass is also a more unstable running surface which requires greater control of your stabiliser muscles, such as your obliques, hamstrings and calves. If you’re new to running, you may not have yet developed the strength needed to stabilise these muscles when you run which could potentially lead to injury so I recommend running on a flat and even surface like concrete to start," she says.

"Running on grass as a beginner does have its own place, though. Grass running is great for slower recovery runs as it’s gentle on your joints."

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