Now that summer is in full force, many of us are out there running regularly and pounding the pavement. Of course, no one wants to be derailed by injury.
Below are a few tips and tricks to help you continue running injury-free this summer.
1) Run softly
With each stride, there is a ground reaction force that your tissues have to deal with. The harder you pound the pavement, the harder the pavement pounds on you.
You can try your best to manage this with shoe design (cushioning and support), but this will only take you so far. A great option is to consider how you are running and finding ways to soften the blow.
A quick tip is to just listen to yourself as you run. Take your headphones out for a few kilometers and just listen. Are your heels striking hard? Are your feet slapping the pavement? When you run past people, can they hear you coming? Or are you surprising them as you silently run by?
If you’re a loud runner, your running form may be slightly inefficient, but what’s more concerning is that you are subjecting your tissues to unnecessary punishment.
Let’s say you’re a loud runner. Now what? There are a few ways to work on running form. You can hire a coach, film yourself running or try to change your stride. All of these methods can be potentially beneficial. Their effectiveness can also depend on how serious of a runner you are.
The quickest and simplest method to use first is just to listen to yourself run. Use your sound as feedback. See if you can focus on running quietly. This method of internal feedback will likely improve your running form naturally without having to overanalyze each stride.
2) Strength training
I’ve seen many seasoned runners come into the clinic with lower extremity tendinopathy and they are shocked to find out that they are weak. “But I exercise all the time. I’m always running!! How can I be weak?”
Running is great exercise, but it’s not strength training. If you want strong resilient tendons that can withstand a significant amount of stress, then they need to be strong.
Unless you are a beginner, running is no longer a strength stimulus for you. You need to be doing regular resistance training in order to reduce the risk of injury.
3) Be good on one foot
The gait cycle is broken down into single leg and double leg contact with the ground. When you’re walking, you are on one leg 80% of the time. When you’re running, you are on one leg 100% of the time. Therefore, it only makes sense to practice standing on one foot.
Can you stand on one foot for 30 seconds? How about with your eyes closed? Can you lunge without wobbling? Can you stand on one foot, reach down and pick something up?
Not only are these really important skills for general life, but they are essential for running. Exercises that focus on a single leg should be a part of all runners’ strength training program. If you want to really challenge yourself, do some single leg work barefoot.
4) Appropriate progressions
Make good decisions regarding your progressions. Many seasonal runners may start out running only a few kilometers at the start of the season and expect progress up to 10k.
A quick way to develop an overuse injury is to progress too fast. The 10% rule is a fairly safe way to build your running duration without overdoing it. That means increasing your distance OR intensity 10% per week. Do not increase both at the same time.
It’s great that you have a goal, but fitness is a journey, so make sure you take the time to let your body develop so that you can surpass that goal and then establish a new one.
If you feel you need any assistance with running exercises or avoiding injuries, make sure to get in touch with a Lifemark physiotherapist. Check out our Locations page to find a clinic near you or book online.