This Coach Says Running At A Faster Pace is Better For Your Joints—Here’s Why

Runners knee, tight IT bands, the list goes on!

Running needn't compromise your health. Here we speak to Nike Running Coach Blue Benadum on his key running tips to keep you free from injuries

I USED to run a lot! Like anywhere from 3-5 days per week I would be out there jogging between 5-8kms, all because I just craved that running high.
The first 1km was always the hardest for me. As my body was warming up, I’d be focused on getting my breath work right. Then, I’d often find myself wanting to retreat back to a walk. But I’d always manage to push myself through till my running highs would start. Usually, they’d just pop out of the blue anywhere from 3km and last till the 6km mark. I never quite knew how to get them back.
But as I ran and ran, I noticed my knees, shins, and hips would start to ache. It wasn’t enough for me to stop, but it was noticeable. I kept running and ignoring. And then one day, I was standing in the kitchen cooking and went to put all my weight on my left leg and I collapsed. My left hip gave way. The pain was excruciating. I took myself to bed, pulled down my track pants so I could put a cold pack on my left hip and there staring right at me was this lump protruding out of my hip socket the size of a golf ball. The very next day I was off to the doctor totally freaking out at what it could be. The doctor assured me that everything was fine and that it was just from running, and that I needed to stop for 2 weeks to rest. So, I did just that, then kept running and it kept coming back.
Long story short, I gave up running because of the lump and then poured myself into yoga. Funnily enough, as much as I hated yoga and never really believed in it, Yoga did wonders for my joints whilst I was recovering and I’ve never looked back.
4 weeks ago Nike invited me to participate in their Nike Go LA 10K. I kinda thought twice about taking part because I have a love-hate relationship with running. But then I thought I’d give it a go. Nike decked us out in their latest and COOLEST running gear and even gave us their all-new Nike Reacts to train in. Nike opted to train myself and a small group of media girls for the 10km. I attended a few of the sessions (some I couldn’t make due to work commitments), and we were also lucky enough to have a Nike Running Coach train us. His name was Blue Benadum and boy did he give me some useful insights into running, how the body works and how to avoid running-related injuries which I so often get! He actually ended up becoming my sounding board for the entirety of the time I was training. Whether I was tired, or just didn’t think I’d make the race, he was always there to support, encourage and basically made me feel like I could achieve anything. He was even there congratulating me over the microphone as I finished the 10km race! Anyway, so there I was running the race, using the new technique that I learned from Blue (see below) and one that I will always use going forward.
The past 5 weeks of training with the Nike team have been a breeze and if there’s any advice I can give, it’s to learn how to run from a running coach, because trust me, you won’t regret it and you’ll end up better off!

Nike Running
The Nike media team

So, yes I did finish the race. Not a personal best, but after taking time out from running for the past few years and picking it back up again, I really did surprise myself. My hips were fine and my shins didn’t ache and I think that’s all because of Blue, his exceptional training program and exercise tips and those damn KEWL and super comfy Nike Reacts that I crossed the finish line in.
Ok, so I won’t leave the story there. I know running injuries are very common and I know you’re all pretty eager to know Blue’s tips. So, here they are!
You’re welcome!

Q: Why is running at a faster tempo better on the joints than running at a slower pace?

Blue: Running at faster paces can be better on the joints because the foot contact time is shorter. A shorter contact time is essentially less time for things to go wrong. More time on the ground equals more time balancing and stabilizing. This also leads to less “over-striding”, or reaching out too far in front of the body upon landing, which is responsible for many of the injuries associated with running.

Q: What typical injuries can we expect to see from a slower style of pace running? 

Blue: A slow cadence, or slow foot strike, can lead to all kinds of overload injuries. The mechanics of your running stride will dictate where the injuries may occur. Anything from runner’s knee, which comes from an over tight IT Band to Achilles tendinitis, which is caused by an overload on the Achilles tendon. The possibilities are endless, unfortunately.

Q: Any exercises you recommend to counteract the injuries?

Blue: Stability and strength are a runner’s best friend. When we run, only one leg is on the ground at any given time. This requires a good amount of strength and stability to run in a way that won’t cause injury. For example, if the gluteus medius muscles are weak, the knee will drop inward and put a further strain on the IT Band. The IT Band syndrome is the injury but the cause is potentially the weak gluteus medius. We can do a lot by strengthening the body to be as athletic as possible. Any exercises that use lateral movements or require single leg stabilizing are extremely beneficial to runners. But don’t leave out everything else. We need leg strength (squats, lunges, quad extensions, hamstring curls, deadlifts, etc.), upper body strength (push-ups, rows, pull-ups, military press, etc) and, without a doubt, a solid core routine that works on abs, obliques and lower back (leg lifts, supermans, side planks, bicycle kicks, etc).

Nike Running
Coach Blue stands in the center

Q: What about diet? I know everyone goes on about carb loading…but realistically, should we just be eating a little more than we really are whilst training? 

Blue: Diet is such a personal experience. Many things can work for one person and completely fail on another. A good rule of thumb is to feed the athlete that you are today. Just because you ran a marathon last month, doesn’t mean you still need as high of a percentage of carbohydrates. On the contrary, if you’re training for an endurance event and trying to live off of a carbohydrate starved diet, something is going to crash before long! Eating a well-rounded diet should suit you perfectly through training and when you need to add more energy, don’t worry, your body will tell you!

Q: What apps do you recommend for someone who is running?

There are so many little things you can do to improve not only your running fitness but your experience on the run. At Nike, we’re working to fulfill both of those requests in one shot–enter Nike+ Run Club’s Audio Guided Runs. Thanks to technology, we can now take you through a guided experience anytime and anywhere, as long as you have the Nike+ Run Club App. We’ve pulled in our best coaches, elite athletes and favorite celebrities to not only take you through amazing and challenging workouts but also entertain you along the way! And the best part? The experience is dubbed over YOUR very own playlist! We’re really excited about it! I hope you are too.

Nike Running
I finally got my groove back thanks to the Nike Running App that integrates with my Apple Watch

Q: And lastly, we all get side stitches/cramps! What’s the secret to not getting them, or making them go away while we’re running? 

Breath! Or breathing. Side stitches/cramps can be a thing of your past. We have the tendency to breathe in sequence with our stride. This creates a scenario where you are breathing in with one arm forward and breathing out with the other arm forward. This is bad for a couple reasons. When you are breathing slow, your cadence is slow, which we discussed earlier. Then if you speed your cadence up, your breathing rhythm also increases. This will lead to hyperventilation and side stitches. The fix? Disconnect your breath from your stride rate. No matter how quick your stride rate is, the breath should be nice and slow and under control.

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