It has been a while since I did a running 101 post, but I thought this topic might be fitting as J is experiencing a nagging injury as he trains for an upcoming half marathon.
In my coaching program, we focus more on injury prevention, as we aren't qualified to diagnose or treat injuries. That said, there are some common injuries that we can definitely take note of, make referrals to specialists and amend training programs to allow for recovery.
As a runner, chances are you have had some sort of injury at some time. I know my running group regularly talks about our aches and pains and have at times been sidelined by injuries. My laundry list includes IT band syndrome, shin splints, piriformis syndrome and a stress fracture, all of which could have probably been avoided.
There is no single reason for injury, but there are a number of contributing factors that will increase a runner's susceptibility:
A triad of muscle weakness, poor flexibility and biomechanical issues often lead to running injuries. To address these areas you should include the following training elements:
- Strength Training - A well rounded strength training program could be your biggest ally in injury prevention. For example, I have a very weak glute med which causes a whole host of problems. Regular exercises (from my physiotherapist) include clam shells, hip hikes, and stability ball bridges. Here is an example of a strength training routine designed for runners. The only caveat here is to make sure you are performing exercises with proper form. An improperly executed squat cold put undue stress on your knees causing more harm than good!
- Joint Mobility Exercises - Foam rolling & stretching are a must! Here is more on foam rolling. There is still some controversy over whether stretching is more beneficial before or after running, how long to hold stretches and whether stretches should be static or dynamic. I think this is one of those grey areas where if you find stretching helps you, by all means continue. If you think it is contributing to running issues (i.e. I believe pigeon pose causes me more harm than good) go with how you feel. *note: if you have been advised to stretch by a health practitioner follow their advice and protocol.
- Assessment of Running Technique - stride length, cadence, and arm swing are just a few areas where a properly trained athletic therapist can assess your technique. I can give you a great example of areas where I have problems. Last year, when my coach video taped my running technique I could finally see what he meant when he said I was "spilling my guts". I allowed my lower belly to loosen which I later found indicated I wasn't firing my transverse abdominus right. I have also seen people with a side to side arm swing, shuffle or hunched position that can affect their mechanics and lead to injury. If you can, go for an assessment. The video is a little embarrassing but so worth it! I think we have all seen some version of this photo making the rounds:
How many of you know someone who signed up for a race on a whim, ran their heart out, and could barely walk for two weeks after. While extreme, this is an example of what happens when you don't allow for proper training and adaptations. In fact, one study found that 60% of running injuries are caused by doing too much too soon.
As a coach, it would be my job to monitor how you are responding to your training program and add in components that can address foundation factors. We can incorporate hills for strength training and a regular stretching regime for flexibility.
Proper route selection may also help. If you are always running the same loop on the same camber, it may explain why you are having knee pain. The trail camber will cause a shift that changes your biomechanics and calls on weaker stabilizers to balance your hips or other points in the kinetic chain (there is a much better explanation here).
This probably seems like a very easy fix. There are generally three types of running shoes: motion control, cushioned and neutral. A proper running analysis will help determine what kind of shoe you need based on whether you are a pronator, supinator or neutral runner. I think running shoes deserves an entire post so we will talk more about that later. The general summary is, make sure you are running in the right shoe for your food type and PLEASE don't run in your cross trainers from the gym. If you are interested in reading more on foot mechanics, this article is very helpful.
Later this month I am attending a seminar on injury prevention so I should learn a few new things to share. If you have questions specific to this post (I know it is lengthy) please feel free to ask and I will do my best to answer them. Also, if there is a topic you want to discuss please let me know!