Whilst I am recovering from the Posterior Tibial Tendonitis, I am trying to educate myself about how running specific injuries occur, why, and what I can do about them if (or more like when) sh*t happens. I believe it is inevitable to come down with some kind of injury or niggle at some point if anyone is seriously into running, however the good news is that by recognising our weak points and proactively working on these areas, we can (with more or less succcess) injury proof ourselves or speed up recovery time if we find ourselves sidelined. In most cases, it comes down on taking care of our core and “rear engine”, where quite a few issues seem to stem from.
She knows something…
Born to Run? It’s Very Unlikely
This is the title of a very interesting article I have recently come across in Chris Mallac’s Sports Injury Bulletin.
In the opening line of the article, Chris is sharing an important truth:
“Running may seem the most natural thing in the world, but for many who try, it certainly does not come naturally, nor even easily. The awkward reality is that some people simply shouldn’t be running at all if they want to avoid ongoing injury. Among the rest of us, running styles vary so much that it is fair to say everyone’s individual running style will be unique – after all, we each differ slightly in our body position, our lower limb muscle recruitment and our foot placement when striking the ground. For a lucky few, running does seem to come naturally. But most people who aspire to run well and injury-free will need to work on their technique and overall postural control”
The groups he believes to be the most prone to running injuries are for example women with very wide pelvises, women who suffered pelvis injury as a result of pregnancy, very sedentary people, people who start running/exercising in a late age, people with previous lower leg injuries, people in physically demanding job etc. So there are certain lifestyle and physiological factors which may make running challenging and I guess many of us fit into at least one category to a certain degree, unless of course you are a superhuman which I doubt you are!
The article made me realise how important it is to work on our bodies i.e. maintain good posture, polish running technique and strenghtening key sites to improve muscular and pelvic control, if we are intending to continue running seriously and long-term. In short, there are things which are outside of our control (such as the physiological factors) however there is a lot we can do about the lifestyle factors.
The rest of the bulletin shares some interesting insights about the most common ailments for runners and how to approach them. You can access the full article for free by signing up to Chris’regular newsletter on his website.
The Imbalanced Runner
Another interesting article I have come across is called The Imbalanced Runner which I found on Cait Chock’s website called the Arty Runner Chick – she is a runner, freelance writer in renowned running and sports magazines and designer of running T-shirts. I completely agree with her thesis that
“Every runner is imbalanced (…) your body isn’t two perfect mirror images between right and left, some muscles are naturally stronger than others, some areas tighter and others looser. For the ‘normal’ person that’s not such a huge deal, but when, as runners, we are demanding that our bodies carry us for miles and miles in the same repetitive motion, those imbalances become glaring weaknesses. Weaknesses not just in efficiency and translating to potentially lost time, but more importantly setting you up for injuries (…)
Yep. So sorry, Megan Trainor, but you are not entirely right from a physiological perspective when you sing “Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top”. I do give her some kudos though for advocating self-acceptance and simply feeling good about who we are 🙂
‘It’s All About the Bass’
The above mentioned author then points out an important truth which actually my physiotherapist drew my attention to when he first examined me:
“The injuries can manifest in some tricky to diagnose ways, as in you may be having problems with your feet but the culprit is a weakness in your glutes.”
My foot problem is very likely caused by a problem higher up so I was prescribed to do some strengthening exercises to focus on my glutes. He told me that this muscle group in the hip joint is responsible for maintaining proper biomechanical function of the lower body during walking and running in order to prevent injuries at the hip, knee, and ankle. Poor alignment of the pelvis due to weak hip stabilization during these actions can lead to compensation from other muscles creating muscle imbalances.
This article highlighted to me how important it is for us runners to identify and be mindful or our weaknesses, and then proactively work on those areas to injury-proof ourselves. The article has a few good tips about how to strenghten some of those areas that are critical to running.
Getting Your Butt In Gear
Her article has a link to another article on the Runnersworld website called It’s All in the Hips, supporting her thesis. In short:
“Foot strike (…) is overrated. Good form starts with the pelvis and the glutes. (…) The emphasis on foot strike missed the mark by putting the attention on the end of the chain, rather than the beginning. We need to shift our focus upward to our hips and glutes, where the stride begins”.
This is a great article talking about pelvic alignment (illustrated by some really good pictures) and how to forge strong and active glutes for running. It also talks about what sensation you can get if your glutes are firing properly during your run!
For me this article underlined the learnings from the previously mentioned two articles and how important ongoing maintenance is. We may learn to use proper hip alignment in exercises but then may end up reverting to old patterns and lose good form as soon as we start running or when we speed up. To sum it up:
“It requires focus and frequency to instill new patterns (…) The magic is simply in the consistency in doing those things. You can’t stretch your hip flexors every once in a while and do some glute-strengthening stuff on occasion and really expect any significant change to occur.”
So, as Megan Trainor would say, if you follow this advice, you can “shake it shake it, like you’re supposed to do“, when it comes to running!