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Sheltering Arms Blog

Springing into running will hurt you

Posted on: March 1, 2018 by Robert Moss

By Sean Whittaker, PT, DPT, OCS

After a long and restless winter, everyone is ready to get outside. For runners, jumping back into running without a training plan can lead to pain and/or injury.

As soon as warm weather arrives, we hit the road, trails, and fields full speed. The next day, the bottom of the foot, a knee, or the back of the leg is painful, but we power through. At first it feels fine after a few minutes of running. Then the pain that remains days after gets worse until we can barely walk in the morning and we can’t run two miles without severe pain. Now, we spend the rest of our spring and summer chasing gimmicks and spending an exorbitant amount of money on products that provide no help.

This scenario of “too much, too quickly” (over-training) is all too common. Tendons don’t like to be over-worked and prefer to start slow and gradually to build up a tolerance to the demand on them.

What contributes to injuries?
– lack of strength
– tight muscles
– improper footwear
– incorrect running mechanics
– nutrition
– medication side effects

Most novice runners don’t realize how much strength and endurance is required to run with good form. Often muscles will feel tight, but many times this tight feeling can actually be from weak muscles being over-worked due to any of the factors listed above. This increases the risk of injury significantly. Once we fatigue, our form and body mechanics deteriorate and muscles are unable to maintain proper alignment of our torso, legs and feet. This abnormal alignment subsequently places irregular and excessive stress on the weakest link in the chain, whether that is tissue in the knee, hip, foot or ankle. Bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, fatty tissue and nerves can all be a source of pain.

When setting running goals this spring, pump the brakes a little and consider the following tips:
1) Rest:  1-2 days between runs
2) Relax:  Let your soreness subside to a minimal level before running again
3) Cross-train:  Cardiovascular fitness is key to running, but you can increase your aerobic fitness by swimming, biking, stair stepper or elliptical with much less stress on your body
4) Divided run:  Break up a run into three sections; slow warm-up; peak effort in the middle third; and cool-down the final third
5) Stretch:  Calf, hip flexors, quadriceps, hamstrings

If you are experiencing pain, it is important to have it checked out before you continue running and risk further injury. A physical therapist can help by identifying the cause of the pain and addressing it appropriately. Call 804-764-1000 to book your evaluation.