Running Injury Prevention Series: Week 2
Intrinsic Causes of Injury
As mentioned in our first article, there are intrinsic and extrinsic causes of injury in running. Extrinsic are those that are due to something that is “outside” of your body (e.g. errors in your training plan). We will discuss this in our next article. For now, we are talking about the other class of injuries, those that are intrinsic to your body. In other words, aspects of how you move while you run and the current nature of your body that may increase your injury risk. These are, in general terms:
- Running Technique
- Joint Mobility
- Muscular strength
Research over the last several years has shown that elite runners have a very high cadence. More importantly for us, those that have a high cadence tend to get injured less. What is cadence? It is the number of steps taken per minute. Based on the research, the best range seems to be 165- 180 steps. Why does it reduce injury risk, and make you faster? It is because at a higher cadence, we take shorter steps (for the same running speed), and that can result in us landing in the middle of our foot and not on the heel.
In Figure 1, Runner 1 has a long stride and lands heel first. When he speeds up the number of steps he takes per minute and stays at the same running pace, he has to shorten his stride (Runner2). The foot no longer lands out in front of him and so he gets less impact forces through his leg. Less impact force should result in fewer injuries.
So how do you increase your cadence and shorten your stride to reduce your injury risk? First you need to know your cadence. On your next run, count the number of times your right foot hits the ground in a minute. Then double that number; that is your cadence. If it is less than 165, we suggest you increase it, but without running faster, as that would defeat the purpose. You can set a metronome on your phone and run to that (go to the App store on your phone, get a free metronome and set it to at 165). Another way is to practice running quieter. If you over-stride and hit your heel hard on the ground, it makes a thud or smack sound. Running quieter often makes us increase our cadence.
Other things to think about.
- Run tall – Think about a string puling you up from the top of your head. This will get your shoulders back, open up your chest to breathe and help your pumping arm movement.
- Don’t swing your arms across your body- Your arms should pump forward, not side to side. If your hands cross the middle of your body as they move forward, you are crossing over, which messes up what your trunk and legs are doing.
Joint Mobility and Strength
We will combine these two and get right into it. Many running injuries we see can be traced to weakness or non-optimal function around the hips and lower back. We see this type of thing (Figure 2) pretty often when we assess runners on our treadmill.
Figure 2. You can see that as her left foot is on the ground, her left hip swings out and then her right back has to tighten up to try to stop this. This is usually due to weakness or lack of endurance in the runner’s gluteal muscles and core. This can lead to soreness and eventually injury in the:
- Iliotibial band
- Lower back
Here are some great mobility and strength drills you can do at home, to help out your running. The first one is to loosen up your hips.
Hip mobility: Rock back and forth 10 x per side
Then build your leg and hip strength with the single leg squat.
Single leg squat: D0 15 x per side
Once you have that squat figure out, move on to the reverse lunge with a “runner” pose at the end. This is great for hip strength, ankle and knee balance and offers a nice front of thigh stretch.
Reverse Lunge to Runner: do 15 X per side
After that you can focus on your hip strength. Try variations of these hip abduction strengthening exercises on your side.
Hip abductor strengthening: 2 x 30 sec/side
If your balance is OK, then do the one leg dead lift to strengthen and stretch your hamstrings. Keep the toes of the foot that is in the air pointing down. This helps to “square” your hips and to keep your balance.
One Leg Deadlift: 2 x 10 per side
We can give you more specific exercises to YOUR needs if required. Feel free to contact us via phone 604- 510 -9900. We are also on Facebook. Stay tuned for article # 3 in our series, on extrinsic causes of injury. Until then,
“Running is real and relatively simple… but it ain’t easy” – Mark Will-Weber