Have you ever experienced an injury from running that caused you to lose motivation and lead to further inactivity? If you are a runner you know that running can be the motivation for everything you do in your daily routine. If the glue that is holding your day together becomes disrupted because of an injury, where do you go from there?
Richard Benyo’s book “Why We Run” offers a good reference to understanding the scientific appeal of running that really allowed it to become a phenomenon. Running has consistently increased in popularity with an estimated increase from 25 million runners in the 1970s and 1980s, to approximately 60 million currently in the United States. As the running population increases so does the injury rate. Research suggests that approximately 80% of runners are likely to sustain an injury. Research has also shown that individuals that are new to running have a higher incidence of running-related injuries than experienced runners. As with many sports, runners may lose motivation to run once an injury occurs leading to inactivity. Prevention of running injuries is important to keep people active and avoid comorbidities associated with inactivity such as heart disease and obesity.
Running presents with a unique set of performance demands including A) a single leg activity moving through space B) repetitive movement with an average of 1400 steps per mile. Here are some tips that may help prevent a running related injury.
1. Maintain your flexibility
· Daily stretching is essential to improve and maintain flexibility to improve performance and prevent injuries.
· It is helpful to include running specific dynamic exercises such as slow marching, lunges, active hamstring stretches for sport specific drills.
2. Include warm up and cool down before and after all runs
· A warm up of 5-10 minutes will help increase blood flow and decrease the amount of stiffness experienced when initially starting the run. Remember most of our day we may have spent sitting.
3. Include strength training in your running program
· Strength training improves strength of bones, tendons and ligaments which all become increasingly stressed during running.
· Strength training will improve running efficiency, increase speed and enhance capacity for longer runs.
4. Gradually increase your mileage and gradually prepare your body
· Aerobic capacity is one of the foundations of running at your best performance.
· Gradually increase your training volume, duration and intensity of no more than 5-10% per week.
· The progression should NOT exclusively include an increase in volume and intensity but include periods of reduced volume and intensity during training seasons or races.
5. Change your running shoes frequently
· Running shoes compress over time, lose stability and cushion and can lead to overuse injuries.
· How quickly a shoe wears depends on the individual but on average every 300-500 miles new shoes are recommended.
6. Cross-train and include rest days in your training
· Cross-training allows your body to maintain aerobic fitness level.
· Choose a cross-training activity that has less pounding to reduce repetitive stress injuries.
· Rest days also allow your body to recover from excessive impact.
7. Have your running form evaluated by a running expert such as a physical therapist who specializes in runners
· Gait analysis is a method for identifying biomechanical abnormalities during the activity - it’s a way of assessing your movement when you run.
· A trained running expert can help you to improve your running form which allows you to expend less energy and delay muscle fatigue.
Rene’e James, MSPT, OCS, CMP