Casual Runner or Marathon Runner
Whether you’re a casual runner maybe getting in a local 5K when you can or one who puts in 50+ miles per week training for another Boston Marathon, it’s likely you have tried at least one training program to try to meet your running goals. While training and pushing yourself is a critical part of getting faster and running farther, it is very easy to injure yourself if you push things too far. The goal of this article will not be to promote a specific method of training, but to help runners be aware of common training-related injuries and give some tips on how to avoid them. First, if you’re not training to try and compete to win a race, then don’t train that way! Not taking a watch or GPS, but instead just running for however fast and long feels good is okay. Running at a comfortable pace for 20 minutes will still give you great health and fitness benefits. However, if you are training to meet a specific goal, or for an upcoming race, here are some “commandments” to train by.
Preventable Injuries vs Non Preventable Injury
You may have seen this posted on Facebook or in a gym and just skimmed over it, but each of these tips are genuinely good rules to run by in order to avoid injuries. Now, not all running injuries can be avoided. For example, spraining your ankle when you step in a hole or off the edge of your treadmill is not a preventable injury. What runners want to focus on is avoiding the preventable training-related injuries.
Researchers published an article in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy that looked at hundreds of studies about running related injuries and explored how they occurred, specifically common features of the training programs of the runners who were injured. They were able to place some common injuries into two categories: pace based and volume based. Training volume is how far you run and is usually measured in miles per week. Volume based injuries were usually found in the knee and included patellofemoral pain syndrome, patellar tendonitis, and iliotibial band syndrome. Increasing your weekly mileage too fast can cause excessive repetitive stress on unprepared tissues and result in injury. There is no special formula to determine how many miles per week you should run, but as commandment number 5 states: listening to your body is critical and usually the best way to determine if you need to adjust your training.
Pace is how fast you are running and is usually measured in minutes per mile. Pace based injuries, according to the article mentioned above, were common to the lower leg, including: Achilles tendonitis, calf strains, and plantar fasciitis. These injuries have less to do with repetition and more to do with too heavy of a stress on unprepared tissues. If you are pushing yourself to meet a time or pace goal that you are physically not ready to meet, your lower legs will likely let you know. Most runners try to increase pace and mileage simultaneously when training, so having this knowledge of where your pain may be coming from can be helpful in modifying your regimen without completely hindering your progress.
Changing it up
Another big training error many runners make is violating the 9th runner’s commandment. Running at no incline, at 7.3mph, for 30 minutes on a treadmill, 7 days a week, for example, is not only boring, but it is likely to cause a running related injury over time. Imagine how your joints are worn as you rub and impact the same places over and over when you don’t vary the surface, incline, and pace of your runs. It’s likely that spot will wear out and cause pain faster than if you were varying your training and spreading the load across the full surfaces of your joints. Plus, having variety in your training is the best way to avoid plateaus in your progress and make you a well-rounded runner. So think about getting outside and doing some hill or speed work from time to time along with those long, steady runs.
Finally, not all running related injuries are dependent on your running training regimen. Muscle pulls, joint sprains, and pain above the knee (hip and low back pain) don’t appear to be related to how much or how fast you run. Those injuries, if they are able to be prevented, are more likely due to a lack of flexibility or a weakness that can be avoided with good cross training and stretching programs. Stay tuned next week for tips and exercises that will help make you a strong and stable runner. And of course, if you have a running related injury or want to know more about what you read, come see me at Flex Physical Therapy. Call 800-930-8803 to schedule your appointment today!