5 Tips That All Runners Must Know To Prevent Injury
SPRING IS HERE AND IT’S TIME TO GET YOUR RUNNING FORM CHECKED OUT AT JERSEY CITY & WEEHAWKEN'S #1 PHYSICAL THERAPY CLINIC IN HUDSON COUNTY
Now that winter is over many of you may be eager to get back on your favorite trails to jog or run. Some of us, myself included, have not kept up with our exercise programs, and others are looking to begin training for the first time. With that in mind I have written this post to help you avoid several of the common pitfalls that sideline runners throughout the season.
When beginning a new exercise regimen it is important to be informed on best practices and make sure you arestaying safe. This is especially crucial with an activity like running, because it involves prolonged time periods with repetitive motion. If performed too aggressively or with improper form, running can result in several orthopedic injuries that can take weeks to months to fully resolve. These include ITB Syndrome, patello-femoral pain syndrome, shin splints, and tendonitis in various muscles.
The tips below will help all runners, both novice and experienced, maximize their running programs to ensure that they can enjoy the sport without fear of injury. If you are interested in additional guidance, our Weehawken location is offering a free run analysis and tips on how to improve your form and time.
Tip #1: Ease into your program
It is very common for people to run more on the first few days of spring than they have in the last 3 months. With any exercise routine it is important to ease into the program. If you were about to begin weight training you wouldn’t walk into the gym and attempt to squat 400lbs. The same is true for running and it requires gradual exposure to build up your endurance. If you jump into a program to quickly, you can develop problems such as shin splints or achilles tendonitis.
Tip #2: Have a plan
In conjunction with Tip #1 it is important to have an idea of where you are going to run and how far you are going to go. “Going for a run” without a clear plan, can lead to you overexerting yourself, getting tired halfway through the run and pushing yourself too far to get home. Many of my patients have told me stories about a time where they overdid it and are dealing with orthopedic issues as a result. For those of you that are training for a longer run like a half-marathon or marathon it is important to find a program that takes into account your current fitness level and your desired goal. You can’t expect to be able to run 26.2 miles when you typically run a much shorter distance.
Tip #3: Incorporate weighted resistance activity
The number one problem that I see among my patients is that they are primarily focused on their running program and don’t spend enough time working on core and hip strength. Running relies on several large and small muscle groups, that benefit from strength training. If you neglect to strengthen the smaller muscle groups, it forces the larger muscles work much harder. This can cause problems like ITB syndrome and patello-femoral pain syndrome.
Tip #4: Dynamic warm-up before, static stretch after
Before you work out you should always do some sort of dynamic warm-up to get the blood flowing and wake up your muscles. Some examples include jumping jacks, body weight squats or lunges, or other low impact movements. A common misconception is that a static hamstring or quad stretch before a run is the most important. Multiple studies have shown that this isn’t always true. Performing a prolonged stretch to a single muscle group can lead to decreased ability to contract and function properly. As a result, this will decrease the ability you have to run or do any other exercise efficiently. Static stretches are best held until after the run to help prevent the muscles from overfiring and tightening up.
Tip #5: Take care of your feet!
What you put between yourself and the ground is critical to be able to engage in a long term running program. This doesn’t mean going out and buying the most expensive shoes you can find, but it does mean consulting with a professional. Many of my patients have purchased shoes that over or under correct existing their foot problems, which leads to foot pain such as plantar fasciitis. It is important to find shoes that fit your foot appropriately and help strengthen your foot to help with all of the running you plan on doing.
While these tips are a great place to start, please make sure you consult a healthcare professional if you have any questions or issues. EPTG Weehawken is offering a free running evaluation and additional advice on how to achieve your goals. We are also looking to begin a running club with the intent to run 2-3 times a week. If you are interested please contact me, Dr. Ben Gertzog, at our Weehawken location for more information. Thanks for reading, and happy trails!
Dr. Ben Gertzog, PT, DPT