This issue of On the Run is written by Lindsay Haas, PT, DPT, OCS. Lindsay is a physical therapist at TherapydiaSF and enjoys working with runners, dancers, and all athletes for rehabilitation from injury and improved sport performance.
The good news is that you signed up for a race. It may be your first or your twenty-fifth, but you are ready. Of course you want to stay healthy. Especially when you are gearing up and looking forward to completing your upcoming race! The bad news is that rates of injuries in runners is high, and its even higher when training for an event.
The #1 risk factor for injury in running was a history of injury, usually within the past 12 months (1). Most injuries in running are caused from overuse, which is defined as repetitive microtrauma to the musculoskeletal system. Increased training loads (such as running more when training for an event) can exacerbate an old injury. Also, you may have changed your running pattern to compensate for your previous injury and as a result overloaded another part of your body and created a new injury.
The second highest risk factor was the weekly distance. Runners who complete more than 40 miles per week were found to be more likely to sustain an injury (2). When you run more, you can overload the musculoskeletal system to the point where it can’t recover, thus creating an injury.
So how do you stay healthy throughout your training?
1. Change it up. Since most running injuries are caused by overuse and repetitive strain, its important to introduce variety to your training. You should already be active in strength training (shown to decrease the risk of injury and improve performance!) but you should also be changing up your runs. Try running on trails, or try altering your pace. Even if you’re not participating in a training program that incorporates tempo runs and speedwork, there should be some variety in your runs.
2. Watch your form. It is important to have good running form. Your cadence is the number of steps taken per minute, and should be more than 170 steps per minute on both feet. If its too slow, you may be putting too much stress on your body. Increasing your cadence will help with over-striding. Focus on taking short quick steps and keeping your feet under your hips.
3. 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 its okay. When you are running keep track of your heart rate and level of fatigue to know if you need to slow the pace or even stop for the day. If you are feeling sharp or stabbing pain, you need to stop. Avoid the ‘three too’s’: too much, too soon, too fast. Pushing yourself too hard can compromise your ability to recover.
Still worried about getting injured while training? Schedule a Fitness Screen with one of TherapydiaSF’s physical therapists. We will identify any potential risk factors to injury or decreased performance and create a customized exercise program to help you meet your training goals.
(2) Walter SD, Hart LE, McIntosh JM, et al. The Ontario cohort study of running-related injuries. Arch Intern Med. 1989;149:2561–4.