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Avoiding Running Injuries

Overuse injuries commonly impact runners at some point in their life and can impact your training, performance, and competitions. At any point during the year, anywhere from 30-75% of runners may be suffering from an injury. The most common overuse injury is Achilles tendinopathy with 56.6% of athletes experience Achilles tendon overuse. This was followed by anterior knee pain at 46.4%, shin splints at 35.7%, and plantar fasciitis at 12.7%.

Why do so many runners experience injuries during their career? Running injuries can occur for a number of different reasons:

  • Muscle Imbalances

  • Mobility Deficits

  • Training Errors - running frequency, duration, improper mileage increase, surfaces, footwear

  • Lack of Cross Training

  • Improper Warm-up

Let's look at some simple principles that you can implement into your training program to help avoid running injuries and improve your performance.

Proper Warm-up

Walking, jogging, and static stretching do NOT = a proper warm-up. These activities will not prepare you properly for a run. A proper warm-up is important for all athletes of any sport. The most important aspect of a warm-up is that it prepares your body and primes your nervous system for the task ahead. Activating your nervous system prior to a run is a key component because when the nervous system is primed properly, you will be able to recruit the appropriate muscles and in the right sequence when the task requires it during your run.

For runners, it is important for a warm-up to include: dynamic stretches, glute and core activation exercises, and single leg stability. If a runner is dealing with an injury or certain mobility or muscle imbalances, it is important for the warm-up to also include exercises specific to each athlete. In the video below you will see a greater warm-up for runners that will address these key areas.

  1. Dynamic Stretches (perform 8-10 reps of each): Knee Hugs, World's Greatest Stretch, and Sumo Squat + Inchworm.

  2. Band Walks (perform 2-3 reps of 20-30 ft): Lateral band walks and monster walks

  3. Single Led RDL w/ Knee Drive (perform 2 sets of 8-12 reps/leg)

Cross Training

Cross training is an important part of any endurance athletes training regimen. However, where a lot of athletes go run is that their cross training routine does not consist of the best routine. While biking, swimming, and stretching are all great forms of exercise and less stressful on your joints than running, they do not address the main issues that can commonly lead to overuse injuries.

For runners it is important to do at least 2-3 days per week of cross training, depending on your training schedule. A proper cross training regimen should consist of strength training, mobility work, and single leg and lateral stability exercises. These days need to be focused on your areas of improvement and addressing any imbalances that you have that could lead to potential injury.

Why is it important for your cross training days to consistent of a specific regimen?

  • Strength Training: Muscle imbalances are a common cause of overuse injuries, so it is important to make sure that you addressing these specific imbalances. Also strength training helps build the resiliency of your muscles and provides stability to your joints. Also, improving strength will help improve you speed, which can improve performance when you need that kick at the end of your race

  • Mobility Work: Just as with imbalances in strength, mobility deficits can also lead to injuries. Deficits in joint mobility or muscle flexibility lead to compensation patterns in running form, which overtime can lead to problems.

  • Single Leg Stability: Single leg stability is important for the obvious reason that while running you are always on one leg; however, this is also important to address any asymmetries. It is easy to hide asymmetries with double leg exercises, so single leg exercises force you to work on your weaknesses.

  • Lateral Stability Work: Running occurs in a single plane, so it is important that your cross training days train outside of this one plane. Addressing lateral stability is important because our lateral stabilizers play a very important role in pelvis stability and core stability, which is key to maintaining proper running form. Any break down in these two things can lead to compensations.

Check out these 2 videos for great single leg stability exercises and lateral stabilization exercises for runners that you can incorporate into your cross training routine.

Avoiding Training Errors

Lack of time, eagerness to get back to training, and not allowing enough training time before a race are all reasons that training errors can occur. Common training errors include too high of running frequency and duration and increasing mileage too quickly. Proper endurance training takes time and commitment, it is easy to want to rush the process. However, following a training protocol specific to your goals is important.

An easy rule of thumb to avoid increasing your mileage is the 10% Rule. Meaning that you should not increase your total weekly mileage more than 10% each week. For example, if you start at 10 miles/week, week 2 you would run 11 miles, week 3 you would run 12.1 miles, week 4 you would run 13.3 miles, etc.

What To Do Next

Implementing these simple training principles can go a long way in reducing your risk of having an overuse running injury that can lead to you missing out on the sport you love or potentially even the race you were training for. If you are currently dealing with a running injury or you want to prevent future injuries give us a call today at 515-985-9038 or email to schedule an assessment, so we can keep you running for years to come!

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