Every runner is going to suffer an injury, pain, or imbalance at some point, but that doesn’t have to stop you from hitting the pavement. Proper form and strength training can prevent injuries, and improve your performance, form and control.
We work with runners every single day and we see countless shin splints, ACL issues, stress fractures, pulled muscles, and random aches and pains. While our end goal is to get you feeling great and running your best, with no pain, it’s ideal to avoid these injuries in the first place – and proper planning can help. Every runner, beginner or advanced, should take the following injury-prevention strategies into account.
Warm up with a brisk walk or running drills, and then begin the more rigorous parts of your workout as your muscles begin to feel activated. If you’re just starting a running regimen, your routine should include stretching after running.
Every runner has some type of inefﬁciency in their form. It may be subtle, but ﬁnding those issues will uncover opportunities to make the body stronger and ready for more strenuous training. Physical therapists can identify these weak points through a gait analysis. By watching you run on a treadmill and examining your alignment, we can see where you need to strengthen muscles, adjust form, improve your shoe wear, or reduce impact in order to become a more efficient runner. When runners can see a knee drift inward, they can visualize the correction and activate muscles to offset the poor form.
There are a few areas any non-injured runner can target to run more efficiently. Endurance runners may have underdeveloped hamstrings, so targeting the hamstrings with strengthening exercises may help. In addition, a single-leg balance or single-leg squat is a low impact exercise that pushes the body to build strength, balance, and coordination in the muscle groups most used while running.
Starting a new running regimen? That’s great, but be careful because novice runners will have to adjust to the impact on their joints. A beginner shouldn’t start with 5 to 7 runs each week. Instead, replace several of these runs with biking, swimming, or time on the elliptical. Each of these activities builds cardiovascular endurance and strength without stressing the joints too much too soon.
Running shouldn’t be the end of your exercise regimen. Strength training can improve your running. Strength in your core and hips, ﬂexibility, and coordination all factor into your performance, so make improving these areas part of training, too. Whether you devote hours each week to running, or run occasionally to maintain a basic level of ﬁtness, a physical therapist can make sure you do so safely.
If you are experiencing shin splints, foot or ankle pain, knee pain, sprains, muscle imbalance, or any other type of pain when running, schedule a free consultation with us so we can take a look at your form and set up a program specifically for you.