Avoiding Injury When Starting a Running Program

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The life of a chef equates to long hours on the job. The job consumes so much of the day it becomes difficult to stay healthy and stay in shape. One of the easiest options to maintain cardiovascular fitness and keep the fat off is to head outdoors and run. Running outdoors also helps to combat the long hours cooped up inside.

Dr. Karena Wu
Dr. Karena Wu from ActiveCare Physical Therapy, New York, NY

The NYC Marathon is the world’s biggest and most popular marathon. It is always held in the early fall (it just passed) and it is around this time that we feel inspired to run for exercise and access our inner ‘marathoner’. For those of you in the restaurant industry, knowing the aches and pains in your feet after a long shift in service can be a serious deterrent. Why would one want to pound the pavement running for 26.2 miles for a solid 3+ hours straight?

Cardiovascular (CV) exercise is basically a repetitive exercise over time. CV exercises work the heart, lungs and blood vessels. Running is the highest impact cardiovascular exercise. It is an aerobic exercise, an excellent form of fat burning and is also very beneficial for stress management.

When starting out on a running program, it is important to have the appropriate equipment.

The restaurant industry requires you to stay on your feet for long hours and you need to have good supportive shoes. That same concept applies to your running shoes as well. It is important to have the correct shoe for your foot type and your running style (heel striker versus midfoot). Also, shoes should not be old as they typically lack the cushioning and support necessary for this high impact sport.

Appropriate clothing is another necessary item.

Clothing should be light weight and moisture wicking. As the temperature lowers and the winds increase, you should dress in layers that allow you to stay warm at the start of your run, but then cool off during the run. They should be light weight to not add any excess poundage on your joints. Moisture wicking is important so that your clothes do not become saturated. You do not want to get cold and shiver along the run nor do you want to catch cold from clothes soaked in sweat in cold weather.

Staying flexibility is a necessity for avoiding injuries.

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Inflexibility is a primary cause of injury. The amount of time spent on your feet both in a static position (at your station) as well as dynamically (during your run) means your soft tissues get overworked, overtired and over tight. Add the prolonged pounding on pavement on your joints and soft tissues and you will feel the tightness of your tissues increase. It will be from running as a new exercise but it will also be from the daily routine you have. Make it a point to stretch both before (dynamically helps to warm up and loosen up the tissues) and after (statically helps to increase the length of the tissue) to minimize soreness and avoid injuries.

Strength and stability training is important to minimize compression in the joints.

Muscles absorb forces that cross through the joint. Stabilization exercises help to control motion and decompress the joints. Strength exercises help to power the limbs. Both forms of exercises are important to allow you to get through your shift and to participate in this high impact sport. They also help you feel energized throughout your day, especially in the tough kitchen environment.

Be smart and listen to your body.

Mileage should be increased in increments with regularity. Pain is a message from the body that is alerting you to take heed (as needed). If you feel an ache or pain at the beginning of your run that disappears, it usually is ok to continue with your run. If the ache or pain persists, but you can stretch it out, it typically will be ok to continue but pay attention to how your body feels after you have cooled down. Sharp, sudden, severe pain, pain that persists, or pain that worsens requires a medical evaluation. Take care of pains so that your run is not uncomfortable or you do not sideline yourself with an even bigger injury.

Slow and steady wins the race.

Starting any exercise program requires dedication and practice. You want to make sure that you can participate in your training sessions regularly. Running outdoors is free and easy and gives back to the body some time spent in the great outdoors. Prep work, service and clean up all required learning the tasks in a stepwise fashion and performing them with regularity. The same applies for any new skill learned. Be smart, stay the path and have fun. Your legs will better support you during your shift once you become skilled at your new CV exercise.

Dr. Karena Wu is owner and Clinical Director of ActiveCare Physical Therapy. She has been practicing physical therapy for 16 years in New York City after she graduated from the Program In Physical Therapy at Columbia University. She received her clinical doctorate in physical therapy from Temple University. She has advanced training in manual therapies, specifically in the Maitland Australian Approach and Myofascial Release. Karena is a Certified Orthopedic Manual Therapist, Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Kinesiology Tape Practitioner and Pilates Instructor. She is also LSVT BIG, FMS and SFMA Level 1 Certified. Karena is a dedicated practitioner who takes a holistic approach to her practice. She actively networks with a team of physicians, chiropractors, acupuncturists and massage therapists. Her patient population consists of professional athletes, dancers, celebrity chefs, TV media stars, high end business professionals, and NYPD/FDNY. Karena is used as a healthcare expert on CBS, NBC, NY1, PIX11, Verizon Fios, Fox News and Dr. Oz. She is the Director of Education for SpiderTech Kinesiology Tape and is on the Medical Board of the Association of Volleyball Professionals. Visit her website at activecarephysicaltherapy.com.