Last weeks blog discussed arthritis and I mentioned the commonly held belief that running causes knee and hip arthritis may not actually be true. Studies have shown that compared to non-runners those who run regularly generally have a lower level of knee and hip osteoarthritis. But running can still cause many injuries including shin splints, achilles tendonitis, ITB syndrome, patellar tendonitis and glute medius tendonitis to name a few. Being physically under prepared for running is a key reason for this. Meaning that if you are running way more distance or way faster than you are used to running or you are too heavy for the amount of running you are doing then you will get overuse injuries like the ones mentioned above.
So what if you want to use running to lose weight? Well start sensibly with a mix of walking and running so you can build up your fitness slowly over many months. For example look for objects on your route that you can target like lamp-posts to run to and then walk until the next one and repeat. Don’t make big increases in your mileage, if you’ve signed up for a marathon but never run more than 5 miles a week before don’t try and go for long runs straight away, build your distances up slowly using examples like the couch to 5k program offered by the NHS.
The next important aspect whether you are elite, overweight, a beginner or anyone else you will also need to have good “core” stability to reduce the chances of overuse injuries from poor biomechanics when running. You need good rotational stability in your trunk muscles to reduce any twisting in your spine when running so you don’t run like phoebe from friends! Exercises such as rolling patterns, planks & bird-dogs will improve your rotational stability. You will also need good hip stability to stop your knee from dropping inwards each time you land, this is where the oft mentioned glute medius muscle comes into play and you can use exercises like side lying clams, monster walks, 1 legged squats and hip aeroplanes to strengthen these muscles.
If we look even further down the chain of muscles used for running then your ankle will also need some lateral stability to maintain a good foot arch so exercises such as toe scrunches, 1 leg balance, calf raises and hip aeroplanes (yes I mentioned this one twice for a reason :-)) will help to reduce inward movement of the knee the same way lateral hip exercises will. For these muscles to have an easier time of it good mobility of your feet, ankles, hips and pelvis (sacro-iliac joints) will allow for full, unimpeded running motion that does not need to be compensated for. Therefore it will also be good to do foot, calf, hamstring, quad, glute, inner thigh and lower back stretches regularly and/or have regular chiropractic to help maintain your mobility.
The other factor I wanted to go into a little bit of detail about in this post is the choice of running technique itself. The two main options are forefoot running and heel strike, referring to the part of your foot that makes contact with the ground first when running. Heel strikes are more economical in ultra long distance running (longer than marathon) but will increase the forces transmitted through your bones on each step. This leaves you more at risk of ankle, knee, hip and low back joint pain but is easier on your muscles. It is also a slower technique so if you are trying to run fast you should definitely be striking with the forefoot first.
Forefoot running as mentioned above is the predominant technique of sprinters, middle distance runners and some long distance runners as it allows you to use the powerful spring mechanism of your foot, achilles calf complex to rebound off the floor with each stride. This does reduce the load on your joints but means your muscles & tendons are taking over and so their injury risk becomes higher.
This means things like achilles tendonitis, calf strains, hamstring strains and plantar fasciitis become more common although most of these can be avoided with the things described in the paragraphs above like sensible time, distance and speed for your current fitness, good mobility, good core stability, good technique and regular chiropractic treatment.
So most of you will be best with forefoot running. A few might benefit from heel striking instead but all will benefit from having a body that can cope with the demands of running in the first place so be honest with yourself do you need to put more miles in, more speed or first concentrate on mobility/stability exercises whilst slowly increasing your running load. Core stability won’t make you a faster runner in the short term but if you get injured less then the consistency of regular training not interrupted by injury will make you a better runner in the long term.
If you would like to learn more about this and get any of your niggling running injuries fixed then call 07710791434 or book online via this website. Exminster Sports Injuries and Chiropractic Clinic are also teaming up with Essential Chiropractic Torquay at the Exmoor ultra marathon series next Sunday 27th September to offer pre race advice and rocktaping, so if you’re there and you want to know more come over and say hello and pick up some discount vouchers for clinical assessment/treatment.