Sixty million people ran for exercise in 20151. Running is a simple, effective means of achieving fitness which is accessible for very little financial investment. Running injuries, however, can be frustrating and expensive to treat. Nearly 80% of runners sustain at least one overuse running injury per year.2 Although spring is only three weeks away, the roads and foothill trails have thawed and the time has come for spring training. This year the inaugural Runners Edge Trail Race Series will provide a great opportunity to test your legs on four local race courses. Proper spring training will insure you reach the start line fit, fresh, and injury-free.
Other than the occasional trip, slip, or fall, the repetitive dynamic forces generated and sustained during running often result in lower extremity injury. Among the twenty common running injuries, 70% to 80% of these injuries occurring from the knee to the foot.3 The most common running injuries include patellar tendinitis, meniscus tears, iliotibial band syndrome, patella femoral pain, shin splints, plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, hamstring strain, stress fractures, and ankle sprain. The most common underlying cause of running injuries, however, is functional weakness of the hips and core which causes compensatory running form.
Stabilizing Excess Motion
Three different planes of motion act on the hips and pelvis while running: Forward/backward motion (sagittal), side-to-side motion (frontal), and rotational motion (transverse). Stabilization of motion in these three planes through targeted strengthening exercises will allow you to run more efficiently while greatly reducing your risk of running-related overuse injuries. A bi-weekly strengthening program must include activation exercises (finding and feeling the muscle working), strengthening exercises (fatiguing the muscle), and dynamic functional exercises (working the muscle in positions which simulate the demands of running). In addition to the gluts, core, abdominals, and lower leg musculature, the upper body and trunk must be strong and mobile. A physical therapist or trainer specializing in the treatment of runners can develop a program specific to your running needs.
Whether you are training for your first 10k or The Rut 50k, mileage increases must be incremental. The age-old 10% mileage increase per week rule is a safe and effective guideline. Gradually increasing your weekly mileage will allow for adequate recovery between runs, allow for muscle strength gains to be realized, and reduce connective tissue (tendons, ligaments, fascia) overload. The net result will be fewer injuries and the ability to run with better form. Remember, rest days are as important as high mileage days. Allow your body to rest, sleep, recover, and be ready to go following your rest day(s).
Unlike the 10% rule for increasing weekly mileage, different races warrant different training terrain. I am often asked how many miles I run per week. While mileage is important to track, the time on your feet and the elevation or vertical climbed is of greater importance for trail runners. Many trail ultra races have upwards of 10,000-30,000 feet of vertical gain. Factoring equally time on your feet (hours), vertical (elevation climbed), and miles run in training will give you a gauge of how you will do on race day. Simulate the terrain of your race while training. Practice your race pace (which may require slowing down if your race is an ultra) and don’t forget to include a shorter, high-intensity workout simulating race terrain once or twice per week. Running cadence, running light on your feet, and nutrition on the move should all be included in your training runs.
Listen to Your Body
Most of us follow a weekly training routine to prepare us for our goal race(s). Because each of the 60 million runners who ran in 2015 are unique individuals, flexibility must be built into our training routines. Listen to your body when you are tired (How’s my stress level? When was my last total rest day?). Listen to your body when you feel good (What did you eat yesterday? How many hours did you sleep last night?). Listen to your aches and pains (Where do I hurt? Does slowing down my pace help? Does increasing my cadence help? When did I last strength train? Do I need to see a professional so I don’t get sidelined?). Running through exertional pain is very different than running through injury pain.
Sapphire Physical Therapy is here to help you reach your 2016 running goals. Call us or email your questions and I will respond to your within 24 hours.
John Fiore, PT
Image credit: innovative-results.com
1 www.stastista.com 2 Van Gent RN, Siem D, van Middelkoop K, et al. Incidence and determinants of lower extremity running injuries in long distance runners: a systematic review. J Sports Med. 2007; 41:469-480. 3 Ballas M, Tyrko J, Cookson D. Common overuse running injuries: Diagnosis and management. Am Fam Physician. 1997: 55(7):2473-2484.