I can count on one hand the number of running injuries I have treated at Fernie Physiotherapy and Sports Injury Clinic in March over the years, and I would say almost every one has been from the same household…take your best guess Fernie runners!Running injuries usually do not start trickling into the clinic until mid May. There is a good reason for this… most people put away their running shoes from November to April in favour of snow sliding sports which do nothing to prepare the body for the tissue loading demands of running. Some time in April, these people will sign up for a race, scour the internet for a free training plan, pull out their running shoes, and start running WAY too much. So, to stick on the Prehab theme lets see what you can do in March to avoid having a running in jury in May! Here are some tips and exercises to get you started.
- First off, go running today! Don’t wait for the snow to melt or the weather to be nice. If you have ambitions of doing a running race any time this summer, start running now so you have time for tissue adaptation to take place.
- Do not run every day! Only run three times a week and always with one day between runs, unless you have been running year-round for numerous years, this will allow time for your body to repair itself from the stress of running and mitigate overuse injuries from developing.
- Strength training is your number one defence from developing injuries and improving your running performance.
- Stretching and rolling can assist in recovery, but if you feel the need to constantly stretch and roll on a daily basis try to strengthen the area instead.
- 10% Rule: Only progress your total run time from one week to the next by 10%.
- If you always run on one surface progress slowly when you transition onto another I.e. Snow to asphalt, or treadmill to dirt. It is best to vary the surfaces you run on to change the stresses on the body.
- Cross train with lower impact activities like mountain biking to improve your fitness on the days you don’t run.
1. Weighted Step Ups
Step ups are a great exercise to strengthen the majority of muscle used in running, which will improve your running economy. Start by loading all of your weight onto the step leg, avoid vaulting yourself up from the ground foot. Try to pull yourself up with your hamstrings to start the movement. Finish the movement with a slow controlled marching motion. The slower you do this exercise the harder it is. Aim for 3 sets of 8-10 repetitions per leg with a challenging weight.
2. Monster Walks
Monster walks target your hip stabilizing muscles which are important in maintaining proper knee alignment as you land and load your leg during running. Align your hip, knee, and second toe in one line as you move side to side or forward and back. Place a resistance band around your feet, ankles, or knees depending on the tension of the band and your strength. Aim for 3 sets of 30-60 seconds or until you feel a strong burn.
3. Single Leg Calf Raises
If I was to choose one exercise to minimize foot and achilles injuries in runners it is calf raises. Be sure to do them both with your knee straight and your knee bent to 30 degrees to target both parts of your calf. Standing on a step raise and lower through your full range of motion at the ankle. As you raise up ensure equal pressure remains on your big and little toe joints. Aim for 3 sets, 10-15 repetitions of both variations. If you can do 15 repetitions start adding weight on your back or in your hands.
4. Single Leg Bridge
Single Leg Bridges target the muscle on the back on your body, as well as your core and hip strength. All of these being important for maintaining good limb alignment while running and propelling you forward. Start with one leg extended and raise using your gluts and hamstrings to create a straight line down the front of your body. Hold this position for 5 to 10 seconds. Aim for 3-5 repetitions per side.
Disclaimer: If you have pre-existing medical conditions/injuries, pain with these exercises and/or uncertainty on how to do them, please seek help from your Physiotherapist.