Preventing Running Injuries

56/365 morning run

Image by kharied via Flickr

“I was training for a (bleeping) triathlon, and I hurt my (bleeping bleeping) ankle!“ ————#mayor_emanuel

The mayor limped into the press room and admitted he’d hurt his ankle on a training run. This puts his triathlon goal in doubt. He’s an excellent swimmer, doing a mile every day, and a strong cyclist. Running is his weak suit. And doesn’t that set you up to get hurt.

It’s July, which is just about time for summer athletes to hurt themselves. The mayor’s on schedule.

It also makes sense that he got hurt running. Both swimming and cycling are strong, steady sports, with little shock to the joints. But running you’re pounding the pavement, full shock to your knees, ankles and feet. Land with your mechanics off, and you are out of the running.

So how would you train to not get hurt?

  1. Increase your mileage slowly, no more than 10% at a time. The strength you developed in one sport will not automatically translate to another. Give your body time to adapt.
  2. Strengthen your ankles. Ankles are particularly vulnerable in runners. Stronger muscles wrapped around the bones help keep those joints stable. To develop these muscles, place an exercise band around both feet.  Now move your feet apart, putting tension on the band.  Next work one foot at a time: pivot the foot outward, and repeat 10 times. Then do the other foot.  Do 3-4 sets.
  3. Strengthen Your Hips – while you’d naturally focus on your feet and knees, your butt muscles keep your legs stable.  Secure your exercise bands to a doorway or by a heavy table, then wrap the free end around your ankle. Steadily move your leg outward, inward and back. This exercise will work a number of the supportive muscles.
  4. Correct for any structural imbalances. If the bones in your feet, knee, hips and/or back are not moving properly, it throws off all your biomechanics. As your feet pound the pavement, shock waves travel up your legs and stress whatever’s out of alignment. To get things back in alignment you may need to see a Chiropractor.
  5. Pay attention. It’s easy to have your mind wander as you rack up the miles but you need to be mindful of your running surface. Gravel or dirt is fine; cement makes the shock waves worse. The mayor it seems to have done the damage on a sidewalk.
  6. Mental preparation. Your mental prep is as important as your physical prep. If you’re training for a triathlon and running is your weak suit, do not focus on your flaws and how everyone will beat you. Instead, see yourself running easily, gaining endurance.  Find things about the experience that pleases you and focus on that. It may be a sight you see, or the feel of your muscles contracting and a sense of power. Let your mental images propel your progress, not set you up for failure.

Training is work but it should also be enjoyable. There are good, safe ways to accomplish your goals.  Keep your goals realistic and add incremental milestones along the way. You want that triathlon to be a triumph, not a hardship.


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