Since the majority of runners do get injured at some point in their running careers, it is just as important to focus on pre-habilitation or staying injury-free.
It is possible to achieve this state through adhering to a manageable set of running guidelines. Be sure to mentally check off each one whether it is before, after, or during your run. You’ll also find that a few of them seem more applicable to your current body alignment and running form. Make sure to pay particular attention to these hints, even though they may be the most challenging to correct. They are often the techniques you need the most to prevent a future injury or propel yourself to new personal bests.
Here are my top picks:
Rather than taking the “long-stride approach” to getting to your target destination quicker, opt for a shorter, swifter step. One downside to taking long strides is that it leads to heel striking and causes greater stress throughout your kinetic chain and thus increases potential risk to your feet, knees, hips, and lower back. Instead, try to land on your mid-foot and feel yourself pushing forward while squeezing your glutes. You’ll not only cut down on your chances of becoming inured, but you’ll begin to run more effortlessly.
This term refers to the runner who resembles more of a hunch back than an athlete. You’ll see this type of person slouch their head towards the ground and round their back over while jogging. Don’t be so quick to judge, though, since most people run while bending forward beyond the suggested 5 degree bend from the hips. This creates poor posture and will slow you down by adding greater gravitational pull on the body. Next time you are out for a run, be sure to keep your chest up and eyes looking straight ahead.
Who said runners don’t need to do resistance training? Without a strong core, you will inevitably end up like the hunch back runner and unable to support your own upper body. Running requires that you not only have strong abs and a lower back, but it also depends on the rotational musculature of your core. If you think about it, you are constantly resisting rotation as your body transitions from foot-to-foot. A good exercise to start with would be band or cable chops.
Flexibility and Mobility
Have you ever winced while watching someone run, and thought to yourself “that has to hurt!” We’ve all seen it. You’ll be driving in your car or running down the same path as a fellow runner and notice that their body is contorted and twisted in positions that make you wonder why they laced up their sneakers in the first place. My suggestion to all of those people is to stop running immediately before they completely wear away the cartilage they have left and prevent any further, permanent damage. On a lesser note, everyone should include a muscle flexibility and joint mobility routine into their running program. It will keep your body in alignment and allow you to run more efficiently and effortlessly. Start with stretching the deep hip muscles like the flexors and extensors.
In one corner we have the hyper-ventilators and in the other the breath-holders. Each one needs to take a queue from the other and find a happy medium. The key to running long distances with ease is to relax your breathing. This will allow you to drop your shoulders and ease tension throughout your body. When you tense up and breathe irregularly, you are creating further exertion for the body and lessening your overall performance. So release the grip, relax the neck tension, and allow yourself to slow down your breathing. The benefit – longer, cramp-free runs.
What does eating have to do with improving your running? Well, without proper nutrition you can only push yourself so hard. Once your energy reserves begin to buckle, your form will start to suffer and your body will eventually stall. Of course, you can will yourself to keep going, but then again you are basically asking for an injury at that point. Keep your body fueled throughout the day by eating small meals and a light snack 45 minutes before your run. Also, make sure to drink 16oz of water 2 hours before your run so that you are sufficiently hydrated when it comes time to pound the pavement.
By incorporating these guidelines into your runs you will help to reduce your risk of injury while improving your running economy. This will lead to more enjoyable and productive workouts that you can feel good about!
Committed to your success,
StephenCabral, CSCS, CPT, NS
Stephen Cabral is a national health correspondent with over 10 years of credentials. He holds national and international certifications in strength & conditioning, personal training, yoga and nutrition.
Steve's column, Trim, Tone & Tighten Thursdays, published every Thursday to Gather Essentials: Health
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