Avoiding injuries for the runner, is no doubt high on the list of things to do for the new year. Runners have signed up for races, sought out coaches, scoured new running plans and injuries can erase the best laid out plans in a minute. Tips to avoid them should be taken into consideration. And while avoiding injury is not guaranteed, here are some things to consider to keep you on the road and track:
Seek out a biomechanical running analysis from a qualified individual. This will allow you to know what is normal for your body and what can be changed (strengthened or stretched) and what is a permanent part of your structure. A tight medial hamstring on one side can be stretched and range of motion improved. An anteversion of the hip (twisting of the femur bone inward) cannot. Both will contribute to how you run but only one can be improved upon via stretching. Learn what is unique to your body and what to do about it.
Participate in some slower strengthening activities to find out where your weaknesses are. Running is a fast movement sport. The legs, arms and trunk move together to catapult the body forward. Weaknesses might not be obvious. Lying on the ground engaging the abdominals in some slow pilates moves would allow you to notice a difference between right and left movements and which side is weaker. Slow an activity down, whether it is weight lifting or mat work. Take notice on how your body is performing.
Work on your one legged balance. Running is a balanced fall forward onto each leg at a time. While our body can compensate using opposite arms and legs for balance, the best approach to make sure that one doesn’t fall too far out of alignment is to have good balance. Test how long you can stand on one leg and add in dynamic balance poses. Take a yoga class which includes poses such as tree pose. Improve your strength and balance on one leg and you will improve on moving forces forward (the direction of running) rather than spending energy twisting into other planes of motion.
Add a weight routine to your routine. Strengthening will not only help you balance better, but studies show runners that engage in a strength training program demonstrate improved times. The stronger you are, the better the body will handle to constant stress and forces from running.
Add cross training to your fitness routine to allow your muscles to rest. Instead of going for a long run each week, perform a running or swimming pool workout once a month to allow muscles to rest from the jarring effects of pounding. This will allow your body to recover more quickly from the workout and give the running muscles a much needed rest from impact. Biking, elliptical and stair stepping machines are some other good options.
Integrating some of these ideas into your training will allow you to understand how your body works and be more in tune with it when it starts to signal it needs a break. This will allow you to catch an injury in the beginning stages or possibly prevent one that could keep you sidelined for weeks or months.