I don't know about you... but there are definitely several people in my life who have all of a sudden taken up running to get out of the house during this crazy time. Here are some things I want all my friends to know as they get out on their lunch break for a jog...
Why do some runners seem to always get injured while others are seemingly bullet proof?
Injury can be the biggest obstacle you face when trying to be healthy. You finally get into a routine of workout or running and BAM injury strikes! The first step to address this is being aware that you are injury prone and that you may need to CHANGE something in order to reverse this... which must be the case if you are reading this article.
The next step is where I come in, to educate you on how to take the proper precautions and be an injury free runner.
If you’re frequently injured, it’s time to take a step back in order to understand why you keep getting hurt in the first place. Avoiding injury is always best. If you feel yourself trying to “push through” pain or an injury and it’s not getting better or going away in 5-7 days... it probably won’t on it’s own.
But you’re in the right place - keep reading...
When it comes to injury, there are factors, like genetics and luck that are out of your control but there are WAY more factors that are definitely in your control.
Some people were just born to run! They were blessed with the right genes and seem to never be faced with setbacks. Then there are those that can’t seem to get past the first few weeks of running without achy knees or throbbing shins. Or training is going great and then just a few weeks before the race, injury strikes - forcing rest right when it's least welcome.
I see this sort of thing all the time and most often these injuries could have been prevented with a little more preparation and knowledge. Whatever phase you are in I can help you stay injury free and keep you running for the long haul.
Below I discuss the main factors that lead to injury:
Too much, too soon...
You could be doing too much too soon if you have quickly increased your training volume or session volume (i.e. training distance, mileage, or time) all at once. Too much too soon could also be a sharp increase in the number of days a week you are running. As a general rule, it is suggested that running mileage be increased at no more than 10% per week. It is also important you allow your body the appropriate rest time - the body needs time to adapt to the stress/load being placed on it. If the training load exceeds the body's ability to adapt, then injury occurs. 4 or 5 days per week of running with 2-3 rest days or cross training days is ideal. Studies demonstrate that individuals running 6-7 days per week had the highest risk of injury.
The importance of proper nutrition cannot be overstated! It’s critical in order to insure that your body is functioning at a high level and is capable of recovering from oxidative stress (which is directly related to the disease process). Most athletes focus mainly on their macronutrients (carbs, fats, and proteins)... however, it is micronutrition which is arguably more important for recovery and sustainability. These are your fruits and vegetables - your body needs them to prevent cellular damage and breakdown, keep your immune system strong, and allow ample recovery. You know how you always get sick right after a race? That’s a sign you are nutrient deficient! It is recommended everyone gets 9-13 servings of fruits and vegetables EVERY SINGLE DAY and athletes need nearly double that because of the added oxidative stress your body experiences. And the only thing to reverse oxidative stress (which causes disease and cell damage) is the antioxidants we get from fruits and vegetables.
Poor Sleep Quality
Like proper nutrition, adequate sleep is a critical component to the recovery process. Again, a body that cannot recover fully cannot adapt to the training loads being placed on it. This impedes performance and increases your risk of injury.
Aside from too much too soon, this is one of the most common causes of injury I see in the clinic. And poor posture is all too common in western society as we sit too much, look down at our phones too long, and are constantly stressed. Poor posture can cause excessive loads on the body and create muscle imbalances and compensation. When you run on a poorly aligned machine it wears down much quicker. Think about poor alignment on a car - the longer you drive it the more uneven wear you are causing on the car and the tires. Any mechanic would tell you to get that fixed ASAP. Same goes for your body.
Not listening to your body...
Your body is an incredibly designed machine that wants to work as efficiently as it can. However, if we don’t provide it with the right environment (nutrition, sleep, posture, and proper training regimens) it can’t perform well... and your body likes you to know. Pain is one of the most common signs of the body letting us know something is wrong… it’s like an alarm system in a building, and it shouldn’t be ignored. Sickness is usually our bodies telling us we need more rest or better nutrients. Please, listen to your body when it is telling you something. Seek the professional help you need sooner than later. I can tell you - it’s a fact! - acting now will save you so much time and money. More importantly, you’ll be able to enjoy more of your days out doing what you love - running!
Although many muscle imbalances are due to poor posture, some can be attributed to other chronically repeated movement patterns. Often when developing a certain motor skill, one will practice and practice that skill only. This causes muscle imbalances to occur... which will ultimately result in pain. This can be easily oversimplified though. Muscle imbalances can form for a variety of reasons including: chronic movement (habits) or sitting postures; neurological input; overuse; and purposeful development.
Even running the same direction on a cambered road can cause a muscle imbalance over time.
Regardless of how the muscle imbalance occurs, once present, you are definitely at a higher risk of injury. In runners, I often see an imbalance in strength within the rotators of the hip. This can lead to altered movement patterns and excessive strain and stress throughout the lower kinetic chain. This often results in injuries like patellar femoral pain syndrome, shin splints, and plantar fasciitis. This is why cross training is such an important component to any training plan. With the right advice, training plan and cross training, you can avoid muscle imbalances and prevent injury.
In my opinion, Pilates is one of the best cross training activities any athletes can do to improve muscle imbalances and posture.
Stability refers to the body’s ability to structurally handle the load it’s being asked to bear. Poor stability can be a component of muscle imbalances, but not necessarily. When running, approximately two-and-a-half times your body weight is absorbed through each leg for each stride. The body’s structures (including the muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and bones) need to have developed the capacity to handle the repeated stress of running. This is why it’s critical to incorporate a strength training routine into your running program. Unfortunately, the deep core is often a forgotten component of cross training programs. WHAT’S THE DEEP CORE?? It’s a crucial part of your stabilizing system and if this is not efficient, none of your movements will be efficient. I highly recommend being assessed by an expert to determine how well your deep core works. CLICK HERE FOR A FREE ASSESSMENT.
Like poor stability, this can be a component of muscle imbalance... and this imbalanced, asymmetric mobility can lead to injury. If you are either too flexible or too inflexible you may also be prone to injury. Too flexible? Is that possible? Yes! Often excessive mobility/flexibility is accompanied by poor stability and can frequently lead to injury. In the case of mobility, you need just enough to safely complete the desired task without over stressing and/or stretching the system.
So what can you do?
Let this be the beginning of a new, stronger you... not just for this weekend's race, but also so that you can keep running for years to come!
Schedule a free discovery visit and we can help find the right fit for you... an individualized plan to get you back on the road again. Maybe you need help with stability and finding your deep core, or help addressing the root cause of pain that is keeping you on the couch... whatever it is, let's develop a plan for YOU together. Here's to injury free running!
Empower PT & Pilates
We help you find a LASTING SOLUTION to back, hip, and pelvic issues so you can age with ease -without having to rely on painkillers, injections, or surgery!
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