Much has been written about running injuries. Most of the information out there tells you to simply take everything slow in terms of increasing mileage, intensity, and frequency of running. In my experience this advice is woefully inadequate. When I first started running seriously in high school I got a stress fracture almost immediately. Was I doing too much too soon? Probably. The real question needs to go deeper than simply a conservative training schedule. What may be conservative for one athlete is an aggressive schedule for another athlete. A better injury minimization strategy is to incorporate strength work into your training. In fact I recommend doing a six week strength program before even starting running. Now I’m not talking about going to the gym and hoisting weights for a couple of hours. A running focused strength program is composed of exercises designed to increase hip strength and stability during running. What happens is that your aerobic fitness increases at a much faster rate than your neuromuscular system. So the solution is to increase the stimulation to your neuromuscular system to foster greater adaptations, better prepare you for running, and allow the development of your neuromuscular system to stay in sync with your aerobic system.
Let’s take a common injury and do some root cause corrective action based on what we know about what is happening during running. Iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS). Why does my knee hurt? Because the IT band is rubbing excessively against the knee. Why is it rubbing excessively? Because when your foot strikes the ground the knee is not stable and buckles out ward. Why is the knee not stable? The glute medius muscles on that side are weak. Why are they weak? Too much sitting and a sedentary life style. Solution: strengthen the glute medius with exercises like clam shells, fire hydrants, donkey whips, and side leg lifts.
Your IT band does not hurt because you ran too much. It hurts because the muscles in your hips are not strong enough to stabilize the knee when your foot hits the ground. So many running injuries are not really caused by too much running but by weakness in the hips. ITBS, runner’s knee, and posterior tibial tendonopathy, are all related to the strength (or lack of strength) in the hips. If you are not currently doing any strength work in conjunction with your running you are increasing your risk of injury. The folks at Runner’s Connect
, StrengthRunning (Jason Fitzgerald)
, and Jay Johnson
, all have great resources to get you started. If you don’t want to click the links here’s five exercises you can do to get started: Glute bridges, donkey kicks, fire hydrants, donkey whips, and clam shells. Do a set of five on each leg to start with. You can do this during the commercial breaks while watching your favorite show. Better yet, take five or ten minutes after your hard runs and knock them out. Once you get comfortable you can increase the reps and/or add a resistance band for a harder workout.
Your body will thank you.
Enjoy the Run.