Tips To Prevent Injuries from Running
Running is demanding but as humans, we are innately built to run. Unfortunately, we have morphed into a sit-centric lifestyle, and this alters our posture and mechanics. When our posture and mechanics aren’t perfect, the impact of running can take a toll on our body, and it can change us from an avid runner to an injured runner. Here are some strategies that can help decrease your risk of becoming an injured runner.
Running is motion; our whole body moves when we run. The effects of one stiff body part trickle through the kinetic chain and stress other body parts. Try these key stretches to help maintain the mobility needed for running.
Open Book Stretch
Thoracic rotation is important because running accentuates the concept of reciprocal motion (your R leg extends while your L arm flexes and vice versa)
Pigeon / Figure Four Stretch
Your hips get tight from over-sitting and this tightness and restriction of the hip joint will interfere with your running stride.
Gastroc and Soleus Stretches
Tight calves limit your ankle range of motion which affects your foot strike and your stride length. This will stretch both muscles that attach to the Achilles tendon.
All the motion that is involved in running needs to be supported by a strong and stable body. Strength in your whole body is important for general injury prevention, but for running these particular muscles need regular attention. -Toe yoga: with feet flat on the floor, raise the big toe while keeping the other four toes on the ground and then reverse that by leaving the big toe on the ground and raising the other four up. Start in a seated position; standing is harder, standing on one leg is the hardest. Compared to the rest of our body, our feet are small, yet they are the only thing that connects us to the ground. These small players have a huge role of supporting our whole body and providing the first level of a strong foundation while standing, walking and running.
The deep hip rotators stabilize your hips by keeping the head of your femur in its proper home in your pelvis while you are in a weight bearing position.
A side plank gives you a lot of bang for your buck by strengthening the sides of your core, your shoulders and the entire length of your legs. There is also a balance component to the side plank that uniquely engages the neuromuscular system which needs to be sharp while running.
With each step on your run, your body is hit with an impact of 1.5 to 3 times your bodyweight. If you adjust where your foot lands and how your foot lands, you can reduce this impact. The first part of your foot that hits the ground should be the arch area so your arch can do the job it was designed for, which is absorbing impact. If the heel hits the ground before the arch, the impact is abrupt and harsh; it stresses the Achilles, travels up through the calf, to the knee, to the hip and even to the lower back. Most of the general running population are heel strikers but if you look at elite runners, the numbers are reversed. Read that again, heel strikers simply cannot become elite runners because injuries will get in the way.
Adjusting your stride will streamline your body’s machine and it make your running more efficient. The bulk of your stride should be behind you, not in front of you. At impact, your knee should be above the ankle, with a vertical or even slightly forward-leaning shin. If your foot lands too far in front of your body, you are over-striding and you are actually slowing yourself down with each step. Running is hard enough, don’t make it harder!
An easy strategy to help fix mechanics is known as Cadence Running. Your cadence is how many steps you take per minute. Gradually working up to 180 steps per minute will automatically adjust the common mistakes of heel strike, over-striding and inefficient turnover. Increasing your cadence is best done by starting to run on a treadmill at your typical speed. Then, using a metronome app to provide a 180 BPM rhythm, try to match your steps to this rhythm without increasing the speed of the treadmill. You will find that your stride feels shorter and choppier. Slightly increase the treadmill speed and shift your muscle engagement from your quads to your glutes/hamstrings by envisioning pushing the ground away from you after each step. This will propel you forward in a more efficient manner. With this adjustment, you may find that the muscles on the back of your body feel more fatigued after a run than the muscles on the front of your body.
Sharpen the tools your body was born with and set up your body for success. By focusing on mobility, stability and mechanics, running can be a rewarding, challenging and pain-free reality.