I am what is known as an injury prone runner. When training for a race, I carefully follow a training plan and listen to my body’s needs, yet I still get injured. I have met other runners who never get injured, however they are in the minority.
At some point, all runners get injured. Why?
- Running is a repetitive sport making you prone to overuse injuries such as tendonitis, shin splints, plantar fascitis or knee pain and more.
- Biomechanical or structural issues of your body such as weakness, muscle imbalance, or decreased flexibility lead to faulty movement patterns – this is my primary issue so I saw my PT regularly.
- Increasing distance or speed on training runs when your body is not ready for those high demands.
Here are some of the things you can do now, as I have done, to reduce your chance of injury so you can continue running.
1 – Cross-Train
There is an old adage that says if you want to improve how to do something, then you need to practice doing that activity the most. This is true for running; however, running is a repetitive activity of pounding two and a half times your body weight with each step. If you’re out for a five-mile run (or longer), that’s a lot of steps and body weight to carry around.
To avoid injury, add-in a day or two of cross-training such as the elliptical, biking, swimming, aquajogging or yoga. This will give your joints and soft tissue a much-needed break from the constant pounding.
2 – Consider a Run/Walk Method
Understanding your body is key to maintaining a successful training cycle, staying injury-free, and ultimately meeting race day goals. If you’re injury prone, like I am, consider the many benefits of a run/walk method. I adopted the run/walk method while training for the marathon and not only did I complete the marathon I haven’t had a running injury since. The run/walk method allows runners to:
- Build time on their feet while limiting the amount of pounding steps.
- Maintain great running form without muscular fatigue.
- Reset their running form as they begin each cycle of running.
- Reduce post run soreness.
- Run faster during the run cycles than if running continuously and possibly have a faster race time.
3 – Wear Appropriate Shoes
Running is a fairly minimal activity not needing any special equipment except for a good pair of running shoes that are appropriate for your body. Choose a running store where the salespeople know how to observe your gait and your feet to help you choose the right shoes. The store should have a good return policy so you can test run your new shoes for at least 2-3 weeks. How can you decide which shoes are right?
- Do the shoes make your body feel good, including your feet, knees, hips, and back, when standing, walking and running? Take a test run!
- Can you stand on one leg easily without losing balance?
- Can you stand on one leg without losing balance when you do a series of motions like raising your other leg out to the side, bringing it across the other leg, and turning your head side-to-side.
4 – Focus on Building Mobility, Balance, & Strength
Runners need a supplemental exercise program focused on building mobility, balance, and strength in order to be fast, efficient, and injury-free. Even though I am a PT I can’t treat myself so, through all my multiple injuries I saw another PT who provided me with the specific exercises that I needed to build mobility, balance and strength.
- Mobility: Runners need to have enough mobility in their joints – spine, shoulders, hips, knees, ankles, and big toes in order to absorb each step and be as efficient as possible.
- Balance: Runners need great balance as running is a series of one-legged hops.
- Strength: Runners need strength in order to create enough force to propel their body through the at 2.5x their body weight.
If you want and need a more personalized exercise program, or to determine your unique bodily structural needs, give us a call. We can give you exercises to keep you healthy or help you heal after an injury.
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