The summer is approaching fast, and that means it is race season for many. Whether you’re training for your first race or your 50th, you need to be ready.
Of course, you want to stay healthy and participate in as many summer events as you can. The bad news is that rates of injuries in runners are high -- even higher when training for an event.
The No. 1 risk factor for a running-related injury is a history of injury, commonly within the past 12 months. Most injuries in running are caused from overuse, which is defined as repetitive micro-trauma to your tendons, muscles and joints. Increased training loads (such as running more when training for an event) can exacerbate an old injury or cause a new one. Also, you may have changed your running form to compensate for your previous injury. This can result in another injury by overloading another part of your body through improper mechanics.
The second-highest risk factor includes your weekly running mileage. An article published in 2012 by the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy found that the relative risk of injury was significantly higher among runners who ran more than 40 miles per week than those who ran fewer. When you run more, you can overwork the musculoskeletal system to the point of which it can’t recover, leading to an injury.
So how do you stay healthy throughout your training? Here are a few tips to help you through the season:
1. Train for your sport. You cannot expect to just run for your training. You should already be active in strength training (shown to decrease the risk of injury and improve performance!) while striving for balance in your core and hips.
2. Add diversity to your preparation. Because most running injuries are caused by overuse and repetitive strain, it’s important to introduce variation from your normal training. Try running on trails, hills, grass, or try fluctuating your pace. Even if you’re not participating in a training program that incorporates tempo runs and speedwork (Team Run Flagstaff does this for you), there should be some variety in your runs.
3. Make sure you have good form. Running is a very symmetrical sport that requires proper posture, alignment, pelvic stability and hip strength. Your balance and strength should be equal on both sides and can be systematically evaluated through a running gait analysis.
4. Check your cadence. Your cadence is the number of steps taken per minute, and should be more than 90 steps per minute per foot. If it’s too slow, you may be putting too much stress on your body. Increasing your cadence will help with over or under-striding. Focus on taking short quick steps and keeping your feet under your hips.
5. Treat injuries before they start. Don’t wait until something hurts. Using ice and self-myofascial release (such as the foam roller) are good tools for when you are sore, but there are ways to be proactive as well. Listen to your body. If you need to adjust your workout or take a day off, it is OK. If you are feeling sharp or stabbing pain, you need to stop and get evaluated by a health professional. Pushing yourself too hard can compromise your ability to recover and lead to greater problems in the future.
Dr. Wes Gregg is a board-certified Chiropractic Physician and Physiotherapist at the Hypo2 High Performance Sport Center. Go to hypo2sport.com or www.drwesgregg.com for more information. He enjoys working with a variety of people, athletes and non-athletes, and spends his free time enjoying all of Flagstaff’s beautiful outdoors and community.
Myles Schrag is coordinating editor for High Country Running. You can reach him at email@example.com.