Running is almost a universal exercise option and one that many people fall in love with. It can be a great workout, is easy to take with you on the road, and requires little equipment. Injuries, however, particularly overuse or repetitive stress injuries, are unfortunately very common.1 Lower body injuries are obviously the most common, with the knee being the most injured site.
The Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation found “the majority of athletes currently participating in high school cross-country and track and field have a history of sustaining an overuse injury, with girls having a higher prevalence of injury.”2
For most runners and people who work with them, this is not surprising. So how can you prevent running injuries?
You could stop running. This is a relatively common recommendation, and may be worth a shot, but you don’t need help on this one, and I personally find this option dissatisfying.
So how can we maximize our chances of running injury free?
Overuse injuries are really exactly what the name says, so we need to find a way to either:
- decrease use (reduce tissue stress)
- increase the ability of the tissue to be used/stressed and/or recover
While not running does decrease the use, it also stops you from running, which you probably enjoy and want to do. It is also good for overall health and you don’t want a sore knee or foot preventing you from exercising. In order to decrease the use or stress on the tissue WITHOUT decreasing volume, you must change the way the tissue is being used during running. This is a very complicated topic that you probably care much less about than me, but it basically boils down to improving your running mechanics and making sure you are using your body properly. The great thing about running is most of us can do it, but this can also be a problem. Not many people would go out and buy hockey gear and just start playing. Most of the things we do we learn about and are coached. Running may have been natural, but after years of sitting in desks at school and work, and living in our modern world, it may not be so natural anymore.
We use Brian at Making Stridz for all of our video running analysis. Brian is amazing and you will not be disappointed. The analysis helps us (and you) see what exactly is going on with your bio-mechanics so that we know what we need to work on to improve.
Orthotics can also fit into the decrease use category. If they can decrease the stress and load on your body by even 5%, over time the reduced tissue load can be quite substantial.
So how do we increase the tissue’s ability to deal with stress? Basically this comes from training, nutrition, and your overall level of health and recovery rate. Just as you gain strength and endurance from running, complimentary training can do the same for your muscles, joints and ligaments. The importance of this is that you can stress the same tissues in a different way to still increase strength, endurance, and power without overusing them to the same extent.
Incorporating strength training into a running program will not only help prevent injuries, it will make you a faster running. Exchanging a running workout for a strength workout (not even adding a workout) can achieve these results.
Pro’s vs. Joe’s. One thing I consistently find in especially higher level non-professional athletes is that they don’t rest. Pro’s have no job. They train, recover, get therapy, and rest. That is it. You train, work, and don’t rest. This is not the ideal. Incorporating some periodic rest into your program can do wonders for your recovery and training.
Tyler Fix, DC, CCWP