I want to take a minute and talk to all the hardcore Houston runners out there. Plus the ones who just started because of New Year's resolutions. I see so many people train too hard, train in the wrong stance, or build up speed too quickly, and suffer a running-related injury. And if that's already you, don't worry. I'm here to help you with a consult, and an x-ray if necessary.
Of course, while I’m always happy to treat you and get you back out there, I’d rather give you some helpful suggestions that could keep you from getting injured in the first place. So please, listen to me when I offer these guidelines for injury prevention for runners.
Injury Prevention for Runners: Focus on Your Stance
More than shoe choice or heel strike, your posture when running can help prevent injury. Try to square your shoulders over your hips and run in an upright position. When you lean forward with your gait, you put extra pressure on your knees, legs and feet. And that can increase your risk of running injury. Also, focus on a comfortable stride. Taking giant steps means you'll land too hard on your feet, increasing your risk for injury.
Don’t Repeat Failed Workouts
When you’re in training, you will likely be on a strict schedule, with designated long-and-short run days. So what happens if you can’t complete a run on its scheduled day?
In theory, it is fine to make up for a missed run, but you should never end up running two days in a row; you certainly shouldn’t re-try a run the day after you failed to complete it. Why? If you ran more than half the workout the day before, trying to do the same routine again will fatigue you and quite possibly put you at risk of an over-training related injury like a stress fracture. Allowing yourself adequate recovery time is one of my golden rules for staying injury-free.
Avoid Running too Many Miles During the Week
Let’s say you’ve selected Sunday as your long-run day; let’s also suppose that you were still recovering from Saturday night festivities and didn’t get out of bed the next day to train. Don’t think you can move your long-run to Monday and then complete the rest of the week’s workouts as planned—doing so is like asking for an injury. Just as repeating failed workouts can lead to overtraining, so too, cramming workouts together will put undue strain on your body. You may be upset about missing one run, but think of how many workouts you’ll miss if you sustain a serious injury from training dangerously.
Never Run Too Fast
During race training, not only will you have to complete scheduled distance runs, you will have to do so at a pre-determined pace. Many runners think that it’s a good idea to run faster than those target paces—after all, if you want to win the race, speed is a positive. Right?
Wrong! Running faster than your pre-determined pace puts more pressure on supportive structures like your muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones, causing you pain and making you more vulnerable to injury. A training schedule allows you to build aerobic endurance while also improving strength in the body structures that support your runs. Give yourself time to break that eight-minute mile pace; your body will thank you by staying injury free.
9 More Running Errors You May be Making
1. You skip resistance training
A proper strength program will support and strengthen both the muscles and connective tissue that allows your body to run. Incorporate some form of resistance training into your routine at least once a week.
2. You wear the wrong shoes
Shoes should be picked out to support your individual anatomy—head to a specialty store for the best possible fitting support. It’s also important to remember that, for frequent runners, shoes will need replacing every few months or else you leave yourself susceptible to impact and overuse injuries.
3. You wear the wrong clothes
Clothing that’s too tight or not the right type of fabric can cause problems for runners, especially when it comes to socks. For long distance training, choose socks that can wick sweat away from feet (this will help avoid athlete’s foot) without being so slick they can lead to blisters.
4. You don’t foam roll
Foam rolling takes your stretching from static to dynamic, giving muscles a more effective warm up and/or cool down. If you’re unfamiliar with foam rolling techniques, many gyms offer classes or instructions on how to make the most of these seemingly simple devices.
5. You skimp on H2O
Drink before, during and after your runs (in moderation) to avoid muscle cramps and other dehydration-related discomfort.
6. Your stride ain’t right
If you think that taking a long stride will make you a faster, more effective runner, think again: long strides increase pressure on your muscles and cause you to tire out at a faster rate. To avoid injury and fatigue, shoot for a rate of between 160-180 steps per minute. Fitness apps can easily help you keep track of your progress.
7. You stick to the treadmill
Treadmill runs are too smooth and simple—outdoor training allows you to encounter uneven surfaces, helping train your feet and ankles to become strong and flexible. Even in bad weather, try to get outdoors for at least one of your weekly training sessions.
8. You run through the pain
Pain is your body’s signal that something has gone awry. If you choose to ignore these signals, existing injuries may worsen. When running hurts, make the smart decision to take a few days off and rest or explore a different form of exercise.
9. You don’t use your arms
Proper arm movement can support a run and take some of the pressure off the legs, feet and ankles. Ideal form? As one leg moves behind you, the opposite arm swings forward to counterbalance. The more you swing your arms, the faster your legs will go.
Incorporate Other Workouts into Your Training
Since most of us are pressed for time, and distance-running requires long hours, many runners skip strength training in favor of getting in more miles each week. This is a dangerous mistake. If you take the time to strengthen and build the muscles that support running, your body will be better prepared to absorb the impact of the sport, once again helping you to avoid injury.
Want to try this cross training idea? Check out these three crucial core exercises for runners, courtesy of Runner’s World.
Prop yourself up on your elbows with feet slightly apart. Align your body, keep abs tight, and place shoulders directly above the elbows while keeping them down and back, not hunched. Hold this position for 45 seconds to one minute. Repeat 3-5 times.
Lower Body Russian Twist
Lie on your back with your knees bent at 90-degrees. Without changing the bend in your hips or knees, lower your legs to the left side of your body, lift them back to the starting position, and repeat on your right for one repetition. Keep your shoulders on the ground the whole time. Try for 10-12 reps.
Get into pushup position but put your feet on a bench. Raise your right knee toward your left shoulder while rotating hips up and to the left as far as you can. Then reverse directions, rotating your hips up and to the right, and bring your right foot toward the back of your left shoulder . That's one repetition. Do as many as you can on the right side in 30 seconds, then switch to your left leg.
Safer training should mean less running injuries, but sometimes you still get hurt when you run. If that's the case, stop into my Houston podiatry office, and I'll get you back into training mode as soon as is safely possible.