Running. Lace up your sneakers and go. Not too complicated right? Being a runner myself, I can attest to the euphoric like experience running provides. Avid runners will tell you all about the rewards of getting into stride, but tread carefully – there are risks. Injuries are a concern for
all runners, seasoned and newbies included. New runners generally tend to overdo it and do too much too fast. While the seasoned runner may become injured as a result of training for longer distances. Running is a very repetitive sport; each stride is a repetition, meaning you don’t have
to run too far before you have done thousands of repetitions. So other than footwear, running style, and following a plan (including tracking your run), which we discussed in last months article, what can you do to optimize your run and stay injury free.
Cadence and Impact
Your cadence is the number of steps you are taking a minute and is commonly measured in beats (or steps) per minute (bpm or spm). The commonly accepted lower limit for cadence in relation to potential for injury is 160-165bpm. The reason being, a cadence under 160spm
increases the amount of time spent on the ground. This allows the reaction force from the ground to make its way higher up the lower extremity (the foot, ankle, knee and hip) that can in turn increase the possibility of injury. Some running gurus aspire for a cadence of 180bpm,
which is what a lot of elite runners run at or above. Overall, a higher cadence minimizes the chance of “overstriding” (when your foot lands ahead of your hips). Your foot will land closer to underneath your body and reduce braking forces. As a result, your gait will be more efficient
allowing for smoother running.
You can assess your cadence with a metronome or if you have a fancy smart watch you can find it in the data. If your cadence is low and you want to increase your spm, proceed with caution and do it slowly. Increasing your cadence will feel really awkward at first. Try increasing your cadence by 5bpm a week, so if you are currently running at 155bpm increase to 160bpm. You can download a metronome app on your phone or you can easily access music that has a specific beat on music streaming services, like Spotify. Increase your cadence at intervals: during your run, spend time running at your current cadence then do a few minutes of your new increased cadence, slowly increasing the time spent at your new cadence. Another potential cause for injury is impact: the force created when your foot hits the ground. The easiest way to figure out your impact force is to listen to your steps; does your foot slap the ground. There is evidence that shows reducing the sound you’re making during running will result in less impact – so think light on your feet.
Warm Up and Cool Down
Before your run, you should complete a warm up – It doesn’t have to be super lengthly (10 to 15mins), but it should include some low-intensity aerobic exercise, dynamic stretching and activity specific drills. The goal of the warm up isn’t necessarily to prevent injury but to prepare the body for physical activity and improve performance. A warm up helps increase blood flow, oxygen delivery, heart rate, body temperature, and neural pathways. All of this helps to get our muscles (including the heart) ready for action; improving muscle and tendon flexibility, joint lubrication, and reaction time. Aerobic exercise could be completed in the form of a 10 minute walk, dynamic stretches via hip swings, walking lunges, etc., and activity specific drills such as A, B, and C’s.
Like the warm up, the cool down is not going to stop injuries from happening but will improve your overall body awareness; in part by improving joint range of motion and decreasing tightness. With the cool down the goal is to lower body temperature and heart rate back to a normal range. During your cool down you should complete light aerobic activity (i.e. walking) and static stretching (stretch and hold). Doing this helps decrease heart rate slowly and body temperature while still facilitating oxygen delivery to muscles for faster recovery. It also helps get rid of lactic acid and other chemicals built up throughout the run reducing the possibility of experiencing delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
This may be the most important, yet most overlooked, component of a fitness training program. Your success with your training program, may that be running or any other activity, is determined by your body’s ability to adapt to the stress of the activity. Rest days allow your body
to physically recover from the stresses endured by training but also provide mental or psychological recovery as well. Other than making sure you are taking a “day off” from your running program, resting and recovering well means that you are getting enough sleep ( seven to nine hours), staying hydrated (which is even more important now that the summer heat is here), eating a balanced diet, and cross training. If you are a busy bee and can’t take a day off from all activity, try participating in gentle movements, such as a walk, stretching and mobility work, or foam rolling (if that feels good for you).
This is crucial. Running is essentially a single leg activity. You are moving on one leg over and over for multiple kilometres. One of the biggest risk factors for running injuries is a lack of lower body stability and balance. Many people think that because they are running, and thereby using their leg musculature, that it is enough to sustain their lower extremity strength and “gets them out of” strength training. This is just not the case. With cross training essentially you are moving your body in a different motion than running, which allows you to strengthen your muscles in a new way and smooth out any imbalances. Cross training can take many forms, it doesn’t just have to be getting into the gym to “lift heavy,” but that’s great if that’s what you want to do; it can be swimming, biking, hiking, water sports, water running, etc. The benefits of cross training are numerous. It improves fitness markers, like VO2max; that means your muscles can push for longer and work harder because your system is more efficient in delivering oxygen to muscles.
Cross training allows for a change in loading patterns and is useful in decreasing overuse type of injuries. There are also mental training benefits, doing something that is different and maybe harder for you is a great way to develop grit and mental resilience. Cross training can also just
make life and training a bit more fun, variety is the spice of life. Running is great and so easily accessible. For me I really love the endorphins and mental health benefits. I hope that diving a bit deeper into the topic of optimizing your run and training program is helpful and provides some more clarity on preventing injury, for both running veterans and newbies. If you are looking for further advice, clarification, or consultation on anything discussed in this article my email inbox is ready. If you need some help developing, progressing, or modifying a program, I’m always available and happy to help you with an individualized program, regardless of your running history, level, or ability.
For more information or to book an appointment call 705-380-3312 or visit the website . Surge Physiotherapy is located at 33 King William Street, Suite 204, in Huntsville. Office hours are flexible with evening appointments available (3x/week). Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Stephanie is a bilingual, Registered Physiotherapist with the College of Physiotherapist of Ontario and the Canadian Physiotherapy Association who is committed to providing a hands on, personalized approach to physiotherapy.
Stephanie, a native to the Huntsville community, developed a passion for health and wellness during her youth while competing in cross-country running, nordic skiing, and track and field. Stephanie has always had a strong caring nature and fell in love with the physiotherapy profession while volunteering at a physiotherapy clinic during high school and university.
Stephanie continued to build on her passion for health care by attending McGill University and completing her Bachelors of Science in Kinesiology. During her Masters in Health Science of Physiotherapy, completed at the University of Ottawa, she completed internships in orthopaedic clinics, hospitals, home care, and neurology centres.