Recreational running in the last decade has seen exponential growth in people of all ages around the World taking part.
“In the 12 months to March 2006,14.0% of Aussies reported that they went jogging on a regular or occasional basis. As of March 2016, the participation rate had skyrocketed to 23.2%, making jogging the fastest-growing sport/exercise in the country over the last 10 years, ahead of hiking/bushwalking, cycling and yoga.” Source: Roy Morgan Single Source (Australia)
The downside to this runaway success (pardon the pun!) is a related increase in the occurrence of running injuries. To really understand how a recreational runner/jogger can avoid getting injured, it’s important to understand how and why injuries happen in the first place.
The action of running is very different to walking. A typical running gait pattern involves having one foot on the ground at any one time. When the foot hits the ground it absorbs up to 3 times the body weight in force and goes through a series of motion to prepare the body to move forward. There is a whole chain of events that must occur before the other foot hits the ground. During this time, the muscles and joints from the foot to lower leg, and from the thigh to hips and trunk of the body and arms, all have to work in beautiful synchrony to help the runner move forward. Having strong muscles are important because they work to give the runner balance, strength and power and help decelerate forward motion so the runner can absorb ground reaction forces efficiently when the foot hits the ground.
A number of things can happen that increase the chances of getting a running injury. One of the biggest contributors to a runner getting injured is the lack of focus on functional exercises specific to running to improve balance, strength and power. For example, doing double leg squats is great for overall fitness but it does not replicate the motion of running. Running is a single leg activity.
Try doing a single leg squat and see if you can jump up high and land lightly on your foot. Now do it fast! Switch legs and see if there’s any difference between left and right. If there is a difference then your focus needs to be on strengthening the weaker side. If the training load or intensity of running is greater than the capacity of the runner’s body (muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints) to tolerate the load then this often results in some form of running injury.
Therefore, a runner needs to pay particular attention to their body’s capacity/ability to deal with high loads. Targeted muscle strength work is extremely useful in training for a running event that requires gradual increase in running demands. Running injuries can also be due to inefficient running posture. Much research has gone into this area recently. As an everyday recreational runner it’s very difficult to analyse and see if you have good or bad form (leave that to the experts!).
However, here are some things you can try to see if it makes a difference to your running technique.
- While running imagine a string is pulling you straight up through the crown of your head. If you feel you have to lean back considerably for this to happen then your trunk is leaning too far forward. If you can’t maintain this posture then it’s likely there is muscle tightness or weakness that needs to be addressed.
- When running are your steps loud or quiet? Can people hear you coming from miles away? Is one foot louder than the other? If your foot contact is loud then it’s probably a sign that there’s not enough muscle power and strength in your calves, quadriceps, gluteal and core muscles.
All modern day recreational runners need shoes on their feet to run. If the world was a field of grass and nothing else then the footwear industry would be non-existent. A question I get asked quite often is “What shoes are BEST for running?”. The short answer is there isn’t one! The best shoe to wear is one that you feel most comfortable in. This is because our feet are all different .To complicate matters even more, the feet are attached to different body shapes and sizes and therefore our postural tendencies all vary as well. However, there are things to look out for when buying shoes to help a runner avoid running injuries. Avoid shoes that are too stiff at the forefoot because this area needs to easily flex like your own foot. Make sure the shoes fit properly in length and width and allow room at the front for forward movement.
Running injuries can frustrate a runner, especially when you want to be out there sweating and pumping endorphins through your system. I know that! I’m a runner too. It’s important to get proper care and advice early to prevent the injury causing even more injuries through compensatory problems. The Footcare Clinic is here to help! Please do yourself a favour and get a proper assessment if you’re struggling to get back to running without pain.