The weather is finally turning nice, and with that comes the inspiration to get out and run for many people. Although running is a natural human movement, a good majority of us could use a little help with our technique. A little known fact I like to share with my patients is that running should not hurt! That being said, at least 65% of runners experience an injury, with the incidence of marathon runner injuries as high as 90%. The overwhelmingly highest region for injury is at the knee, 42%, followed by the foot and ankle at 17%, lower leg at 13%, and hip/ pelvis at 11%. Other areas which are often injured include the Achilles/ calf, upper leg, and low back. A study by Pujalte et al 2014 showed that “the presenting injury is frequently the result of an inability to compensate for a primary dysfunction at another site.” In layman’s terms, a lot of us are running with the parking brake on. You will get to where you need to go, but eventually, something is going to wear out.

“You need to be fit to run, not run to be fit.”

Compensations, AKA “the parking brake”, occur when our bodies develop poor movement patterns related to decreased mobility in our joints or limbs, poor strength, poor balance, or poor coordination. A lot of this occurs due to the sedentary lifestyle of today’s society. A recent survey found that out of 24 hours, the average American spends 21 of those hours sedentary, such as sitting or sleeping. Although this is hard to believe, when you begin to consider all of the activities in our day that involve sitting, it does add up. Excessive sitting leads to tight and weak hips, a weak and unstable core, and postural muscle shortening which all lead to moving poorly. All this by itself can lead to aches and pains but when you add in the force that running produces on our bodies, the risk gets much worse. Running is a highly dynamic activity. We are propelling ourselves through the air, landing on one limb and absorbing up to 3x’s our body weight through one heel (if you are a heel striker.) I have heard running described as a series of single leg squats while moving your body forward with flight time in between.

Justification for training your Runs

Nielsen et al 2014 studied over 254 injured novice runners and found that the median recovery was 71 days with a minimal recovery time of 9 days and a maximum recovery time of 617 days which illustrates the seriousness of running injuries. Many of us who enjoy running as our go to physical activity are lost when we are unable to continue due to injury, or just try to enjoy ourselves by pushing through in pain. Gone are the days when we were hunter’s and gatherer’s and could take off sprinting or run greater than marathon distances without a hint of a warm up. We are not that active of a population any more. We need to prepare our bodies to handle the repetitive rigors of running. Just like any other sport, runners should perform exercises to increase mobility and strengthen supporting muscles. Runners should take pride in their running form and practice it. We should get into the “zen” of the run and listen to what our bodies are telling us. As we strive to improve the way that we move, the run becomes more effortless, less painful, and more enjoyable. We will run faster and for longer distances as we are not wasting energy fighting our own bodies, and our bodies will be more resilient to avoiding injury. We will run like we were kids again and have much more fun.

We Can Help!

Freedom Physical Therapy Services will provide you with the tools you need to excel at running and moving through your environment. We offer comprehensive running evaluations, which look at the person as a whole. We analyze your strengths, weaknesses, joint mobility, movement patterns, and running gait. We provide hands on manual therapy and provide detailed exercises that work with your schedule and available resources. Whether you are currently suffering from an injury, have a nagging pain, or want to optimize your running before an injury occurs, now is the time to start running well with the Freedom team!

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Physical Therapist at Freedom Physical Therapy Services
Spencer is a manually based physical therapist who employs a variety of techniques including joint and soft tissue mobilization, Active Release and Muscle Energy Technique, and trigger point release. He is skilled in functionally based corrective exercises, as taught through Functional Movement Systems.