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What to Consider Before You Become a Runner

By Shane YoungSeptember 5, 2013

Should You Be Running?

Running is innate. It’s the pinnacle of the human neurodevelopmental sequence. It’s something that everyone can do. And for some, that’s the beauty of running. All you need is the motivation and drive to get outside and put one foot in front of the other, no matter how slow you go. But should you be running?

Statistics have shown that if you run, there is a 95% chance that you will experience a time-loss injury (greater than 7-days) within 1-year. Many injured runners share common characteristics. They usually have compensation in their muscle activation pattern, limited range of motion, and imbalance in muscle tone. When a runner pushes the mobility while stability is not there, the body needs to compensate the pattern, limit the range of motion and activate different muscles to support the mobility. If not corrected, this will lead to more injuries in the future.

 

Are you in pain or experience pain while you run?

If yes, you need to stop right now. Pain is signal that something is wrong. And there is a huge difference between the discomfort from exertion and pain that’s trying to warn you of physiological damage being done.

 

Are you symmetrical? 

Consider the number of times that your foot makes contact with the ground during a single training session, during a week or even a month of running. Every contact has the potential to improve symmetry or promote asymmetry. And if you start asymmetrical, it will only get worse with every step you take. Ideally, when viewed from the side, your ankle, knee, hip, shoulder and ear should all line up. Take a moment to think about your posture. What does it look like?

Almost everyone who runs (or has shopped for running shoes) has heard that how your foot pronates, or rolls inward as you land, affects your injury risk. It has long been thought that pronating too much or too little leads to a heightened risk of injuries to the leg or hip. Everyone pronates and supinates to some degree with every step. Pronation is how the body absorbs shock. And it’s opposite motion, supination, is how the foot acts as a rigid lever for forward propulsion. If you’ve been told that you over-pronate and have been fitted for high-stability or motion control shoes, do yourself a favor and check out what’s happening with your hips. When your pelvis tips forward, your femur and tibia rotate inward, which produces pronation of the foot. And when your pelvis tilts backward, your femur and tibia rotate outward, which produces supination of the foot. You can control excessive pronation by controlling excessive anterior pelvic tilt. Runners always ruminate on what the foot is doing, when the actual pivot point for the lever system that produces movement is really the lumbar spine and pelvis.

And this is only the start of the discussion. We could go on for days about how posture affects performance and your likelihood of developing injuries. If you have any questions about your individual posture and body mechanics, get evaluated by a trained professional.

 

Are you strong enough to run?

Running is an activity that primarily happens in the sagittal plane, but most injuries happen in the frontal and transverse planes. If you train the body to be strong in only one plane of motion, it will not be strong enough to cope with the forces placed upon it in other planes of motion. How many runners will prioritize getting mileage built into their legs over strength training? How many runners will avoid squats in lunges to avoid “bulking up” their legs? Your body absorbs about 2-5x your bodyweight in pressure each time your foot strikes the ground. Are you strong enough to handle that amount of force?

Here’s the bottom line — proper strength training is key for injury prevention and performance. Running injuries are not cardiovascular injuries; they’re muscular injuries!

 

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