Knee Pain, IT Band Syndrome, Plantar Fasciitis, Hamstring...
If you are a runner and were not born yesterday, you have either heard about or experienced one (if not all…) of these complications that so commonly come along with running. Whether you are an athlete or just a fitness enthusiast, running is probably going to be a prominent component of your life. It is the ultimate expression of human locomotion and has been a part of 2-legged human lives for as long as we can remember. Running can be extremely beneficial to our physical health and well being. It can reduce our stress, take us new places, and be shared with friends and build social communities. It also elicits our endocannabinoid system, that “Runner’s High” that makes you feel all nice and lightheaded (Fuss, et al.). That is the same system as actual marijuana… So, clearly, running is a beautiful bio-psycho-social human experience. If…YOU ARE PREPARED
Let me repeat that, IF YOU ARE PREPARED. All of these injuries are so “common” for a very good reason. Jogging, running, sprinting, and all of the above, are incredibly physically demanding on the body, muscles and joints. “Various epidemiological studies of recreational and competitive runners have estimated that between 27% and 70% of runners sustain overuse injuries during any 1-yr period.” (Hreljac, et al.) That is a lot of people getting hurt. How can you avoid and mitigate all of these injuries you ask? Ultimately, it comes down to just having more resilience built compared to the demanding forces that running places on the body. We are trying to manipulate the LOAD/CAPACITY equation. If the incoming load is greater than your body’s capacity, injury occurs. How do we influence this equation positively in out favor? We have to manage load volume and increase capacity.
How do we manage volume? Volume is simply the days per week you run x the distance x the intensity at which you run. A lot of these injuries are classified as OVERUSE injuries. That means the injury was the straw that broke the camel’s back. There was something happening to the injured area, just below the injury threshold, often and over an extended period of time. An easy way to manage this is to track your running distances and days you run. There is no specific recommendation for volume. The only ideal volume is that which challenges the body to adapt positively while not being too much to injure it. That being said, start off extremely low, especially if you are a beginner. Run 0.5 mile, 1 day per week and see how your body responds. Your body is incredibly intelligent at picking up “red flags”, listen to it and progress or regress accordingly.
How do we increase capacity? The capacity we are seeking to increase is that of the tissues involved in running: Bone, Muscle, and Tendons/Ligaments. Creating stronger bones, tendons, and ligaments takes a long time, much longer than it takes to strengthen muscle, but they all get stronger according to one principle: Progressive Overload. You must introduce a challenge to the tissues that is slightly harder than what it previously encountered but not too much of a challenge that the tissue cannot succeed and becomes injured. Sound familiar? It should. And it is very important, remember running is physically demanding! Studies show that with each step the body could receive up to almost 3x your bodyweight in force! (Suzanna, et al).
So if you weigh 200lb, each step is loading 600lbs of force!
That is why it is vital that strength training (real strength training with weights that slowly get heavier over time…) is a primary component of your training. The goal is to be stronger than the challenge running presents. You CANNOT find that strength just running or doing “The 10 Best Bodyweight Exercises for Runners!” you found on a google search…That will continue to leave you frustrated with low performance and constant injury.
So, if you find yourself on the treadmill more often than lifting weights, or not lifting at all, chances are reallyyyyyy good that 1) you are not preparing your body for the demands of running as much as you should and 2) leaving running performance on the table! Who wouldn’t want to have a better race time or enjoy an evening run a little longer? A well rounded runner should probably display quality mobility and flexibility that healthy joints express and strong, resilient bodies with strength that should be found head to toe. Becoming stronger will definitely not slow you down. It will make you a better runner (Berryman, et al.) and a better runner with a lower likelihood of injury. Injuries are not always avoidable, but strength training properly is taking your best step forward for your health and mitigating injuries.
Now, hit the weights appropriately or find a fitness professional that can help you with your running goals!
Written by: Collin McGee
Logan, Suzanna et al. “Ground reaction force differences between running shoes, racing flats, and distance spikes in runners.” Journal of sports science & medicine vol. 9,1 147-53. 1 Mar. 2010
Hreljac, Alan et al. “Evaluation of lower extremity overuse injury potential in runners.” Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: September 2000 – Volume 32 – Issue 9 – p 1635-1641 September 2000
Paavolainen, Leena et al. “Explosive-strength training improves 5-km running time by improving running economy and muscle power.” Journal of Applied Physiology vol. 86 May 1999
Berryman, Nicolas et al. “Strength Training for Middle- and Long-Distance Performance. A Meta-Analysis.” Human Kinetics Journals vol. 13 January 2018
Fuss, Johannes et al. “A runner’s high depends on cannabinoid receptors in mice.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America vol. 112,42 (2015): 13105-8. doi:10.1073/pnas.1514996112