Running elevates heart rate, improves bone density, and keeps us feeling positive. In addition, running demands no inflation of tires, no special equipment and can be done almost anywhere. The only downside of running is the trauma on our bodies.
The impact of striking the ground repeatedly places a lot of stress on the feet, shins, knees, and hips. Runners can reduce the incidence of common injuries such as Iliotibial Band Syndrome, Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction, achilles tendonitis, knee problems, and hamstring and other muscle strains by taking a few simple precautions.
1) Wear footwear appropriate for your arch height and runnng style (its best to get fitted at a running store by someone who can do a proper evaluation) and replace shoes when cushioning has broken down (shoes are usually rated for X amount of miles).
2) Gradually increase intensity during each workout. Be sure not to start out too fast.
3) Increase intensity and distance gradually. Beginners might start by alternating between walking for a minute and jogging for a minute for a total of 15 minutes the first week. Fitter individuals could start with a mile jog, gradually increasing distance by a half mile to a mile per week. Listen to your body! It will tell you if you are doing too much too soon.
4) Avoid running on shoulders and other banked surfaces, which will put undue stress on the hips and knees on one side of the body. I ran on a shoulder in a half marathon once and my knee hurt very badly for two weeks afterward.
5) Integrate cross training into your program. Low or non-impact activities such as swimming or cycling are ideal.
6) Stretch and use a foam roller to lengthen the IT band post-run. It tends to shorten and contract during and after running and cycling. When this band of connective tissue gets too tight, it causes pain on the outside of the knee and hip. To stretch, lay on back, legs extended. Place yoga strap under right foot, extending leg up and gently stretching over body toward the left. To roll, position yourself on your side over foam roller and roll up and down the outside of the thigh. Avoid rolling over the knee joint or the hip bone. A soft roller will work best. I purchases a green one from OTPT that works very well.
7) Stretch hip flexors, hamstrings, quadriceps, IT band, and low back after every workout.
8) If your running style is awkward, hire a running coach or pick up a copy of Danny Dreyer’s Chi Running. His book offers great suggestions on how to adjust your posture, foot strike and running style so it is less traumatic on the body.
Are you ready to get out there and enjoy your workout? I know I am. I’ve got to don my running shoes now, too, before it gets too hot. Tucson in June is hot, hot, hot!!