Running is a great form of exercise that is inexpensive and has significant benefits for enhancing your overall health. Running can help you lose weight, boost your confidence, relieve stress, eliminate depression, and — for women — reduce your risk for breast cancer. However, like any form of exercise, running can cause injury if you are not prepared for the stress it may put on your body. Be prepared before you take off running so that you can spend less time on injury recovery and more time enjoying your sport.
Many training injuries occur when an individual increases mileage or intensity too quickly. Muscles and joints need time to recover and build up in order to adjust to the demand of an intense exercise regimen. If this process is rushed, the muscles and joints break down and injuries can occur. By increasing your running mileage by 10% each week, your body should be able to adapt to the changes without injury.
Listen to Your Body
If you experience discomfort during a run that causes you to alter your stride in any way, you should rest for three days. If you are pain-free after the three days of rest, you may slowly return to the activity, increasing your pace and mileage gradually. However, if you are still experiencing pain after the third day, take three additional days off. When pain persists after those three extra days, you should schedule an appointment with a sports medicine specialist. Here at Foothills Physical Therapy, we offer a thirty-minute rapid recovery injury assessment where a therapist will assess your injury and determine if you need an injury recovery plan, which can include physical therapy, an at-home exercise program, or a physician consultation.
Stretching and Cross Training
A key component of injury prevention is stretching before and after the activity. By stretching important muscle groups such as the hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, and hip flexors, you decrease the strain placed on them during a run. Static or dynamic stretching performed before a run can remove any underlying tightness. Some stretches we recommend to runners are the hip flexor stretch, the IT band stretch, the hamstring stretch, the quadriceps stretch, and the calf stretch. Cross-training activities like swimming, cycling, elliptical usage, and rowing are also effective in keeping runners’ bodies healthy.
Consider Your Running Shoe
Another good tip for staying healthy during the running season is finding quality running shoes. Every running store carries several shoe types that help you reach different goals. Additionally, many running stores offer a free gait analysis. They will assess your gait and foot placement and offer a few varieties of shoes that fit your specific need. Once you’ve decided on a shoe, make sure you’re keeping track of the mileage you run in them, as it is very important to replace your shoes every 300-500 miles.
Strength Training and Form Drills
Injuries can occur when one muscle or group of muscles is weak. The stronger muscles end up getting overworked by overcompensating for the weaker muscles, resulting in possible injury. When your body has a strong base, you can better endure running impact — caused by hitting the ground with each step — and prevent wear and tear on your joints. Building your gluteal and core muscles can steady your pelvis and legs during impact, and strengthening your feet and ankles gives your legs a solid foundation to land on with every step. Some good strengthening exercises include ball bridges, clamshells, planks, and the single-leg stance.
Many runners lack strength not only in their muscles, but also in their neuromuscular pathways. This is where the communication between your brain and body takes place. When you strengthen your pathways through form drills, your muscles fire more efficiently and quickly, allowing you to run with increased control and stability.
We’re Here to Help!
If running is your forte, hopefully these tips will help you to continue to hit the pavement injury-free! If an injury does occur, we’re ready to help. We have locations throughout the Valley and we focus on helping runners through their injury recovery process. Simply contact us to schedule an appointment!