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The Basics of Running









Running is a simple activity.  You don’t need much, except a pair of running shoes.  One foot in front of the other at a faster pace than walking. But yet such a simple activity brings many people to my office for treatment. I see many injuries that can easily be avoided by following some basic guidelines.

“Too Much Too Soon” 
Right out of the gate many people take on too much mileage when they start running.  You need to give your muscles, tendons, bones, etc time to adapt to the stress of running. When you run, you sustain over 3x your body weight with each foot strike.  Each minute you run you can take up to 180 steps and for an hour run, that’s over 10,800 steps.  It takes time to build up to this kind of stress.  Start out with low mileage, 3x week.  When building your mileage, don’t add more than 10% each week.  This is to allow your body to adapt to the stresses of running.

Many of the injuries we see are runners that are inconsistent with their training and don’t allow for a gradual buildup.  You can’t run 12 miles a week, then jump to 18.  Same with the long run.  If you are at 8 miles, don’t run 14 the next week.  You can’t cram training.  All it will do is lead to overuse injuries.

“The Hot New Shoes”   
 Many runners are attracted to what others are wearing on their feet.  One person has success with a shoe, so they think they will do well wearing it as well. Or the shoe company has a great marketing campaign.  There are many different styles of running shoes out there for many runners.  It can take time to find what’s appropriate for you.  But the same methodology applies to switching running shoes.  You need to slowly adapt to the new shoe.  You can’t be running 15+ miles a week and just switch over to a different shoe.  You need to look at the heel drop (drop from heel to toe measured in millimeters).  If you are in a shoe with a big heel (8mm drop), it’s a bad idea to just switch over to a 4mm drop or less.  Your foot strike can change dramatically.  Perhaps you were a heel striker and the new shoe makes you more of a midfoot striker.  Now you are placing stress on different structures of your lower extremities that now have to be adapted to the stresses of running.  Slowly work in the new shoes into your rotation.  Start with 10 min of each run wearing the new shoe, then go back to your older shoe.  Take things slowly as it can take 3-6 months to adapt to the new shoes, depending upon the drop.  And don’t make a big jump in your drop.  If you are wearing a big, chunky heel and want to go ‘minimal’ or wear a shoe with a very low drop, be patient.  Make the transition in stages and take your time.

“Rest, It Does a Body Good”
A basic building period in training comes with a rest week built in.  It usually involves a reduction in weekly miles and time.  It is during this week where your body rests and adapts to all of the training you did the prior weeks.  When you are fatigued from the buildups, your strength goes down and your running form breaks down.  This will make you susceptible to injury.  Listen to your coach or training plan and take advantage of the down time.  You will come out after that week recharged and stronger than before.  Don’t skimp on the rest.

“Running form”
Heel strike vs midfoot strike vs forefoot – everyone has an opinion.  In reality, there is no right way.  There are many top runners that heel strike.  We look at other things for running efficiency that don’t include what part of your foot strikes the ground first.  

  • cadence
  • contact time with the ground
  • vertical displacement
  • impact force on landing

These 4 items have a greater impact on your running economy over what part of your foot comes down first.  The higher your cadence (170-190 steps per minute), you will improve where you strike the ground (with your foot under the hip).  It leads to less soft tissue absorbing landing forces (achilles, plantar fascia, tibialis posterior, patella tendon, etc) and more absorbing through joint motions of the knee and hip.  Higher cadence also leads to less contact with the ground.  The less contact time you have, the less vertical displacement (how high you bounce up and down when you run).  The less vertical displacement, the less impact force on landing you have. All of this makes you more efficient.  But again, you just can’t jack up your cadence to 180 and expect a transformation.  It comes back to Too Much Too Soon – you need time to adapt.  

“Running Gait Analysis”
If you have been dealing with running injuries or will be doing a lot of running to prepare for a race, a gait analysis might not be a bad idea.  A good analysis would include a complete biomechanical and strength assessment as well.  A great strength training program is important to go along with regular swim/bike/run training.

“Don’t Run Through an Injury”
If you are injured, get it checked out.  There is a difference between being sore and being injured. Sometimes you can run through an injury, but it might require a decrease in mileage or frequency. And at times it requires complete rest while you rehab it.  It pays to get it checked out early so you minimize the loss of training time.  Ask us to help you find out whats wrong, why you got injured (was it Too Much Too Soon??), and how to get you back on track!!