Most runners are enthusiastic about their sport and take steps to work out safely. But injuries like stress fractures and muscle strains, among others, are common and can sideline you, sometimes for weeks if not months. Researchers point to hard heel-toe landings as one key injury risk factor. This type of landing increases vertical load rate the amount of force your body absorbs on impact, making you more prone to injury.
One obvious adjustment is to aim for a forefoot landing. But biomechanics expert and author Jay Dicharry says that’s not the only answer and it’s not the answer for everyone. Another adjustment to consider involves your posture. If you can avoid arching your back and keep your torso centered over your lower body when running, you can lower your vertical load rate. Running barefoot is one way to practice this positioning.
Keep in mind that preventing injuries begins before you hit the ground running, according to experts at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire. Strength training to develop all muscle groups reduces the muscle fatigue that can lead to poor performance and injuries. Daily stretching only after muscles are warm also prevents injuries. Include dynamic moves like high knee drills, skipping, bounding, arm circles and cross body arm swings.
Negative effects of running
As focused as you might be on running, cross-training can actually help you avoid overuse injuries. Be sure to add rest days for recovery to your schedule. To maximize fitness and minimize the negative effects of running before an injury occurs, consider consulting with an expert in running biomechanics. Such an expert can analyze your gait; identify weaknesses and make suggestions for better form, running shoes and, if needed, orthotics.
There was a time only professional runners and top-ranked age groupers included drills in their training plans. Now, however; drills are being implemented by every category of runner from beginner to record holders as a means of both improving form and reducing the risk of injury. As you build your training plan for the year, add a few of these post-run drills to decrease your risk of injury; improve coordination, add power and improve your overall kinesthetic awareness.
Distance runners tend to move only in one direction: forward. As such, our prime movers (calves and hamstrings) are constantly engaged and can easily become overloaded, particularly if imbalances exist. Our lateral stabilizers (TFL and IT bands, gluteus medius and peroneal tendons) can provide support for the calves; hamstrings and gluteus.
A simple lateral hop drill will effectively allow this “support crew” to strengthen and stabilize your prime movers and help reduce injuries associated with overloading prime muscle groups. Following one to two runs weekly, engage in these hop drills as follows.