Run Strong and Decrease Injury

Bloomsday will be here soon and with it many runners will head outside, some will be prepared others not. In fact, as high as 80% of runners will sustain an injury at some point during their running career.  Spring is a busy time for our clinic because as the weather gets nicer, people often push themselves harder and longer without much training during the winter months.  Get going on the right foot this spring, use these simple tools to train smart during the winter and reduce the risk of injury.

Common Mistakes that lead to Injury

Running takes a base level of strength and requires technique.  A common flaw seen is when people try to use running to get back into shape.  If you don’t have a base level of strength, or know how to run properly you are at an increased risk for injury.  Other more experienced runners increase their intensity too quickly with spring races coming along without enough contact time on the pavement during the winter months.  Almost all running injuries come down to three categories: improper training, improper technique, or inadequate strength/flexibility.

Proper Cadence and Volume

To avoid improper training, use the 10% rule when it comes to training volume. This means each week increase your training volume by no more than 10%.  For example is you normally run 3 miles, 3 times a week, you would only add one mile to your total volume the next week if you are building up your mileage.  To improve your running technique, work on your cadence.  Cadence is the number of steps you take in one minute.  The ideal number is 180 or higher, as determined by multiple research articles and common among running coaches.  It’s easiest to determine your cadence by counting how many times your right foot hits the ground in a one minute period.  Take a 20 second period of your run and count your right foot contacts.  Multiply the number by 3 for your cadence in a one minute period.  If you count 30 in that 20 second period, your total is 180 and you are most likely looking pretty good.   If it’s significantly less, don’t try to make any drastic changes to your running.  Instead try increasing your cadence by 10%.  Increasing your cadence naturally decreases your stride length and brings your foot closer to the body in a more optimal foot strike.  A common error in beginner runners is over striding, resulting in more braking force, and higher forces going through all the joints.

Key Areas of Flexibility

When it comes to strength and flexibility, common areas that need to be stretched in runners are the hamstrings, calves and hip flexors.  Keys to injury reduction before a run involve a proper warm up, getting the muscles and body physically warm and prepared for movement.  A dynamic warm up should be performed before runs, with prolonged static stretching reserved for after a run.  Having strong hips, and a strong core are critical for runners.  Here are a few basic exercises to try. If these are challenging right now, think of working on more strengthening before adding more miles to your run.

Strengthening Exercises

Front plank: On forearms and toes, pulling the belly button toward the spine and keeping the back flat.  Hold for 60 seconds.  When a 60 second hold becomes easy, start performing alternating slow leg lifts without your hips moving.  Side plank: on one forearm with the feet stacked up on top of each other, hips as high as you can, body in line. Hold for at least 45 seconds.  When this move becomes easy, try slowly lifting the top leg up and down and see how many you are able to perform.  We like most of our runners to be able to do at least 20 repetitions for strong lateral hip muscles and obliques.  Single leg squat: perform ten repetitions to a comfortable depth.  Keep the back straight but a slight flexed forward posture at the hip.  It should be easy to maintain balance and do ten reps in a row, as running is basically repeatedly doing small range single leg squats.

Running is a great mode of activity!  It does however come along with a high chance of injury if it’s being done improperly.  If you would like to be filmed with slow motion analysis for more information on your running call U-District to schedule a running analysis to help reduce injury and improve technique.