Running and joint pain can go hand-in-hand, considering just how high-impact the sport is. Especially for road runners, as the significant force of the pavement can put stress on muscles, overworking them and potentially causing injuries.
Athletes are at an even higher risk for injury when they aren't stretching or cooling down, Dr. Karena Wu, a physical therapist and owner of ActiveCare Physical Therapy in New York City and India, said. When skipping these crucial workout steps, one's muscles can get shorter and shorter, which can cause strains and tears.
For anyone on the recovery end of a running-related injury, Dr. Wu explained that you should be able to walk pain-free for a minimum of a half-hour before returning to a jogging program. That is, as long as you've gotten the green light from your doctor to hit the pavement or the treadmill.
Ready to jog? Dr. Wu said dynamic stretches are best done before a workout as a warmup to increase your range of motion, muscle and tendon flexibility, and circulation.
Once you're ready, she suggested interval jogging to increase your tolerance and endurance for the repetitive movement and shock absorption.
The goal is to jog continuously for a minimum of 30 minutes at a low-to-moderate intensity to start.
Dr. Wu noted that you should be able to have a full range of motion of the joint with minimal to no swelling.
Don't forget your cooldown, which should always follow interval jogging. Dr. Wu stressed that the best time for static stretches (stretches held for usually around 10 to 30 seconds) is after a workout, as "blood is flowing to the skeletal muscles and your tissues are more pliable."
And here's your excuse to book that massage — Dr. Wu said it can break up knots, increase circulation, and move lactic acid out of tight tissues.
Remember: recovery is like a marathon, not a sprint. Programs like this will help you take care of your body and stay healthy, hopefully allowing you to go the distance in the long run.