5 Ways to Prepare Your Body to Run

feet injury prevention running strength

Written by Delina Korbel, PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS

Are you ready to return to running and improve your speed or endurance? Or just interested in trying new things during this time out of sheer boredom from sheltering in place? In either case,  here’s how to prepare you to start running the right way. You may have been told that running helps you get fit, but what you may not realize is that you have to get fit to run!

If you’re not used to exercising regularly already, sometimes motivating yourself to just get out there and move is really hard to do. However, knowing that even just a little bit can help you reap the benefits of decreased stress and improved mental health can keep you motivated.(9)

So why do you need to get fit to run?

Why isn’t it as easy as taking a walk? Running is a little bit more complicated than walking because of it’s two different phases. There is a stance phase (1 foot on the ground) and a flight phase (both feet are in the air) and this time varies based on how fast you run. Running also requires your body to absorb the high amounts of impact (2.5-4x your body weight!). (1,4) 

This can be a big deal for you. 

“It is expected that approximately 56% or recreational runners and as high as 90% of runners training for a marathon will sustain a running related injury each year.” (3, p1) One reason for this is running effectively and efficiently requires several key components. Running requires flexibility, balance, core and lower body strength, and power to see improvements in your running and decrease the load on your joints. Running injuries are likely a combination of all the above variables leading to poor running mechanics as well as a lack of proper training. (1,3,4) Okay, enough of the scare tactics and let’s talk about how you can do you! Let’s get just a little more technical and break what you need for a proper stance phase.

Stance phase (1 foot on the ground):

It is amazing how much work your body needs to do in order to keep you upright in this position. Your body needs good control and stability at your hip, knee and ankle. Specifically, you will need good hip flexibility, core strength, hip strength to prevent collapse of leg, thigh strength to control the landing, calf strength and flexibility. The key for the stance phase is the runner’s ability to stabilize body while loading (landing) to minimize risk overall risk.(1)

Now that some of the Covid-19 restrictions are slowly lifting, your goal in return to running is first to re-acclimate your body to reduce the risk of injury.

Here’s how to start if you’re a new runner or a recreational runner. Begin with a slow progression of distance and speed over multiple weeks including a walk-run combo in the early weeks. Avoiding hills for the first 3 weeks, starting at an easy to moderate pace, and taking a day off in between is encouraged. Progress your running volume slowly no more than 10% a week. (3,4)

5 Ways to Prepare Your Body to Run

1. Regain Your Flexibility.

The stay-at-home order has kept us cooped up and really stiff! Stretch out your Calves/Quads/Hamstrings/Hip Flexor and consider buying a foam roll to work out those knots  

2. Activate Your Muscles.

All this extra sitting around has made our muscles lazy and hard to activate or get going as easily. Consider: Clam shell exercises & hip abduction for your glutes, side planks and dying bugs to wake up your core. Here is one example of something you can do at home.

3. Improve Your Balance

Have a history of ankle sprains or leg injuries or do you just all-around struggle to balance on 1 leg? Regain your balance with Single leg balance in the mirror with “pretend running.” Can you see how hard it is to stay completely still without your body leaning or your leg moving? Try our single leg “running” balance exercise.


4. Initiate Strengthening

Strengthening takes 6-8 weeks to actually make a difference so this is something if you commit to you will really see a difference! Single leg strengthening is so important for runners. A great exercise is single leg squats or lunges, but the key to success with running is good mechanics with this! Let’s take a look at a leg strengthening exercise. 


5. Power & Reloading Joints

Since running increases impact forces by 2.5-4x your body weight, preparing to accept these new loads is important and plyometrics are a great way to do this!

A plyometric (or jumping program) has been proven to improve your running performance, and best of all is a time efficient mode of training that makes you feel like you have worked hard and gives excellent results. (4,6) Here is an example of proper hop mechanics:



Lastly, don’t forget to warm up before you run!

Try some dynamic stretching and light jogging to prepare your body before you start your workout. 


Get out, be active and stay healthy!


Do you have any questions? Don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Evergreen Physical Therapy! We are excited to walk or run with you down this road and be your guide to getting back on track! We can create customized programs to help you meet your goals and maintain accountability. You can reach us at (626) 683-8536.


Check back in for our next blog post on how to treat your own running injuries.


Please note that the information in this blog is not medical advice. Please reach out to your physical therapist or physician if you have specific questions or pain.


Delina Korbel is a Doctor of Physical Therapy specializing in orthopedics and return to sport injury prevention and concussion management. Her expertise has helped athletes of all skill levels enhance their performance through personalized training.



To schedule an appointment with Delina or one of our staff please give us a call at (626) 683-8536 or Request an Appointment here. Lastly, don't forget to subscribe to our blog to get more great insights from our specialists!




  1. Heiderscheit, BC. Orthopedic Management of the Runner, Cyclist, and Swimmer: Biomechanics of Running. Independent Study Course 23.1.4. pp 1-11
  2. Heiderscheit BC, Chumanov ES, Michalski MP, Wille CM, Ran MB. Effects of step rate manipulation on joint mechanics during running. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011; 43(2): 296-302
  3. Heiderscheit, BC. Orthopedic Management of the Runner, Cyclist, and Swimmer: The Runner: Evaluation of Common Injuries and Treatment. Independent Study Course 23.1.1. pp 1-18
  4. Ache-Dias J, Dellagrana RA, Teixeira AS, Dal Pupo J, Moro AR. Effect of jumping interval training on neuromuscular and physiological parameters: a randomized controlled study. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism = Physiologie Appliquee, Nutrition et Metabolisme. 2016 Jan;41(1):20-25. DOI: 10.1139/apnm-2015-0368.
  5. Szabo A, Abrahám J. The psychological benefits of recreational running: a field study. Psychology, health & medicine. 2013;18(3):251-261. doi:10.1080/13548506.2012.701755.
  6. Spurrs RW, Murphy AJ, Watsford ML. The effect of plyometric training on distance running performance. European journal of applied physiology. 2003;89(1):1-7. https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=sso&db=mnh&AN=12627298&site=ehost-live&scope=site. Accessed June 3, 2020.

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