’Tis the season for weekend fun runs, charity 5Ks and multi-stage team relays. It’s also the season when physicians and physical therapists treat the highest number of injuries related to running.
From plantar fasciitis and IT band friction syndrome to pain in the knees, hips, groin and back, most consistent runners have been derailed by pain or injury at least once. One study even suggests 60 to 65 percent of all runners experience an injury during the average year.
But as recreation and competitive runners hit the roads and trails to prepare for upcoming events, avoiding some common early season training mistakes can keep runners healthy and competitive throughout the season.
Such mistakes include:
Skipping Warmup and Cooldown
While workout windows can be tight and difficult to secure during a given week, don’t use time constraints as an excuse to avoid properly warming up and cooling down before and after a run.
Some walking, light jogging, skipping, high knees and butt kicks prior to running increases heart rate and circulation, loosens up the joints and increases blood flow to the muscles. For your cooldown, do some light walking and stretching to help reduce the buildup of lactic acid, which can lead to stiffness and muscle cramps.
Wearing the Wrong Shoes
How your feet strike the ground will affect muscles and joints throughout your body’s entire kinetic chain, from the feet and ankles, through the knees and hips, and up into your spine and torso. If your shoes don’t fit properly, support your feet correctly or sufficiently absorb the impact of each stride, you’re going to feel it “…that person can end up with plantar fasciitis, knee pain, Achilles problems, hip problems, all the way up the chain,” said Laura Ramus, PT, ATC, manager of Detroit Medical Center’s Sports Performance Academy. “You have to match your foot type to the shoe.”
Not Listening to the Heart and Body
Don’t subscribe to a “no pain, no gain” model when running. Sure, you’ll want to push your body hard, but if you feel pain or an unnatural level of discomfort, stop, assess and seek treatment from a physical therapist, if necessary.
It’s also important to track your heart rate during workouts to make sure you’re pushing yourself hard enough…but not too hard. According to the Mayo Clinic, your max heart rate is 220 minus your age – that’s 180 beats per minute for a 40-year-old. For a moderate intensity run, shoot for 50 to 70 percent of your max rate. Increase that to 70 to 85 percent for a more vigorous run.
Focusing Only on Cardio Fitness
With running, cardio fitness is certainly important. But when it comes to both injury prevention and performance enhancement, flexibility and strength are equally as vital. Stretch daily and during cooldown periods, and build strength in your calves, knees, hips and core through eccentric heel drops and body weight squats.
“If you want to perform at your full potential, you need to take a comprehensive approach to your running,” states an article in Runner’s World. “That means targeting areas of fitness you may not normally pay attention to, like flexibility, balance, mobility and strength.”
Forgetting to Rest
It’s good to push yourself, but rest and recovery are essential in avoiding injury, burnout and plateauing before you’ve reached your fullest potential. So always work rest into your long-term training regimen.
To learn more about proper training, including the development of personalized assessments and training regimens that can enhance your running performance, contact your local physical therapist.