One of the keys to getting fit and improving your personal records (PR’s) is staying consistent with your training, and nothing can put a damper on consistency like injuries. Running injuries are very seldom acute in nature; most likely it is caused from the constant pounding on an unbalanced structure. Rest and ice are common treatment options and may provide temporary relief only to having the symptoms return upon increasing the training again. The key to running injury free and getting better results lies in becoming a stronger, more balanced runner.
It is said that more than 80% of runners will experience an injury in a given year. Injuries can be caused by any number of reasons such as improper biomechanics, muscle imbalances, joint restrictions, poor footwear or an improper training program just to name a few. Pain is often the body’s way of compensating for deficiencies, and that is why rest alone, often, does not fix the problem. Too often, we get tunnel vision when dealing with injuries (i.e. evaluating and treating only the foot for foot pain). The underlying cause must be addressed.
Muscle weakness in one area will cause muscles in other areas to work harder than they should, past their maximum capacity. Once these muscle imbalances are identified, corrective exercises can be incorporated into your weekly routine. The same can be said for joint movements—restricted movement at one joint can mean excessive movement at another joint and vice versa. If we look at it joint-by-joint the foot needs stability, ankle needs mobility, knee needs stability, hip needs mobility, and core needs stability. These imbalances have great effect on postural alignment and stride mechanics.
The ultimate goal is to run as efficiently as possible. By correcting these imbalances and joint restrictions as well as taking steps to improve our posture, efficient and injury-free running is achievable. The next step is focusing on running lightly and underneath our center of gravity, avoiding the over stride. If you’re accustomed to battling injuries every year, or [gasp] the same injury every time you get back to running, it’s time to make a change and seek a professional evaluation. Injury-free, stronger running is obtainable and PR’s are meant to be broken.