Returning to Running
Planning to run off those holiday pounds? Running is an accessible and popular way to burn calories and get fit! Running doesn’t require a gym membership or equipment, you can just walk out your door and start running.
Though running is extremely accessible to most, it is notorious for injuries. While it is an excellent way to burn calories, it’s estimated about 70% of people who start running will end up with injuries. Most of these injuries are in the category of repetitive overuse injuries – injuries that develop slowly from repeated running habits and don’t necessarily cause pain or stop you from running until they are really bad.
Injuries may occur in the new or seasoned runner, and stem from insidious habits in gait, footwear and training methods. Some of the most common repetitive overuse injuries and symptoms are the following:
- Shin Splints
- Knee pain
- Foot pain
- Hip pain
- Iliotibial Band Syndrome (pain on the outside of the leg)
- Plantar Fasciitis.
The good news? These repetitive overuse injuries are preventable, but you have to stop it from happening before you’re too far down the path. If you wait until something hurts or stops you from running, it’s too late. If you already have an injury, it is important to consult with a doctor like the chiropractors at Hosmer Chiropractic Health, who are familiar with all types of running injuries and who will help you heal and return to running as soon as possible.
How do you achieve your New Years fitness goals without developing habits that lead to injury? You can start by avoiding a few common mistakes that may lead to injury, including stride technique that places too much force through the joints of the feet, legs and back as well as unwanted stress on the wrong muscles. A few simple training considerations can make all the difference.
First, it is important to know that your body is healthy and moving well. You do not want stiff muscles and joints affecting your running from the get-go as this will limit your ability to run efficiently and minimize the biomechanical stress of running. It is helpful to have an evaluation of muscle and joint health by a sports Chiropractor, like the doctors at Hosmer Chiropractic Health, before training. After you know your body is moving well, consider these helpful guidelines for footwear, frequency, distance, technique and running speed that will help you have a long and healthy running career.
Footwear (should I wear it?)
Zero drop shoes (the heel height and ball of foot height are equal) allow natural motion of your foot and lower leg. While some conditions require different footwear, for most runners zero drop shoes are best. The shoe should be wide enough that your toes can spread and not be squished together with each step. You can check this if you take the insole out of your shoe and stand on it bare-footed. Your toes should not hang over the edges. If they do hang over, this means your foot is being squished against the sides of your shoes with each step. This can cause many kinds of foot pain, including plantar fasciitis and neuromas. More information can be found at: https://www.hosmerchiropractic.com/blog/choosing-your-shoes/
Altra and Merrel brand shoes offer zero drop and wide running shoes.
Another topic, barefoot running, continues to grow in popularity. In this article we will not cover the details, but for the pro’s and con’s of barefoot running visit Hosmer Chiropractic’s Blog: https://www.hosmerchiropractic.com/blog/barefoot-running/
Always start with a warm-up that involves full-body-movement, balance and flexibility motions. A good warm up makes the body more supple, so it is less likely to suffer a strain or sprain. Check out Hosmer Chiropractic’s blog post for a dynamic warm up routine: https://www.hosmerchiropractic.com/blog/7-ultimate-dynamic-stretching-exercises/
Your body needs time to recover, so run every 3rd or 4th day giving yourself 2 or 3 days of recovery in between running days, especially when you are first starting to train. You may want to cross train with pilates, yoga, or strength training on the days you are not running.
Perhaps the most difficult part of training, and yet one of the most significant is running technique. Proper running technique requires strength and balance throughout the body (part of the reason cross training on off-days is important). Some key techniques to take into consideration are:
- The legs
As you begin the run, start with butt kicks, running in place and kicking your heel up to your butt. Maintain a similar motion with your legs as you start to propel yourself forward by tilting your body forward,
- The Body
Tilting the body slightly forward from the ankles, not from the hips, propels the runner on. An ideal lean is approximately 12 degrees. Start from the butt kicks and then tilt forward. You may feel like you are falling forward. This means you are doing it right!
- The Feet
Initial landing should be in your mid-foot, behind your toes on the ball of your foot. The muscles in your legs will absorb the impact of landing this way. If you were to land on your heel, the muscles cannot absorb the shock and more of the impact goes through the ankle, knee, hip and low back joints.
Start with running 20 second intervals at an 80% sprint with a minute of walking in between. Repeat this process 10 times, slowly increasing the running time over the course of several weeks. Focus on running technique and quality rather than miles. Good running technique requires more muscle than shuffling along with an exhausted gait. Using correct technique and form will prove to be an efficient calorie burner, even though you may not run as many miles. This is a good way to start or re-start running. Even if you are a conditioned runner, taking time to focus on technique will benefit in the long run – literally.
Taking 90+ strides per minute (called leg turnover) maximizes the use of the energy already generated. With fewer strides per minute the spring-like energy created with a faster leg turnover is dampened and lost, leading to inefficient use of energy and more impact through the joints. Focus on leg turnover and form rather than time spent running.
Low intensity motion after working out helps your body pump the extra blood sent out to your muscles during your workout back through your system. Stretching is a good method of cooling down. Stretching muscles that are predisposed to getting stiff and tight with running is a good idea for injury prevention. The quads, hamstrings and calves and glutes are a good place to start (for stretching videos visit https://www.hosmerchiropractic.com/blog/). Depending on your lifestyle and other hobbies you may need specific stretches and self-care methods. The doctors at Hosmer Chiropractic Health can help you find specific routines that will help you. Hosmer Chiropractic Health also offers weekly mobility classes with valuable information on stretching and foam rolling (a useful tool that pairs well with stretching) and you can find a class schedule at: https://www.hosmerchiropractic.com/blog/events-and-classes-calendar/.
1) Wear zero drop shoes wide enough for your toes to spread out
2) Warm up
3) Give yourself 2 or 3 days between runs
4) Land on the ball of the foot and tilt forward
5) Begin running in 20 second intervals with a minute of walking between and transition to more running and less walking
6) Take at least 90 strides per minute
7) Cool down with proper stretching and foam rolling
With proper care, running technique, good footwear and balanced training most injuries are preventable! Running can become a lifelong hobby and you can say goodbye to those holiday pounds.
1) American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (2013). Runners of all types prone to injuries. Retrieved from: http://www.aapmr.org/patients/conditions/msk/Pages/runfact.aspx
2) Gretchen Reynolds (June 26th 2013). A popular Myth About Running Injuries: Retrieved from: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/06/26/the-myth-of-pronation-and-running-injuries/?_r=1