In just a few days more than 8,000 runners will lineup to run the Dam to Dam with another 3,000 runners joining the event to do the 5K on June 4. This event is a benchmark for runners of all levels, in Des Moines, as it starts the unofficial running season so many have been training for.
Photo: John Barnhart
Training for a road race event can be grueling. No matter if you are a beginner or advanced runner, putting in miles and miles over hard pavement can add up. Below I have outlined some tips to give runners a leg up on preventing some common running injuries. Take a look!
1. Shin Splints
The easiest way to avoid shin splints is to increase mileage gradually. Also, when you start running, it is good to have the appropriate shoe fitted especially for your feet. Whether you are a natural supinator (have high arches) or over-pronator sometimes referred to as “flat feet.” Beginners can benefit from a professional fitting at local running shoe stores. We recommend local running stores like Fleet Feet, Kyle’s Bikes, or Fitness Sports.
At the first sign of shin pain, start with a day of rest, use ice, and self massage/foam rolling. It is also a good idea to start reducing your running to a more comfortable level for a few days, then slowly increase your mileage. I recommend cutting your current mileage in half for one week. Another option is to switch up your exercise routine by adding in biking, yoga or swimming to reduce strain on the affected tissues.
Below are a couple of recommend exercises that help prevent shin splints:
Statically stretch your calves one at a time by rising up on a step, on the ball of your foot, and then lowering yourself down, being sure to keep your knee straight. Hold for 30 seconds do 3 sets each side.
Sit on the floor with your bare foot extended out in front of you. Hold a wide light resistance band in each hand, curl your toes into the band as you point your foot. Repeat daily, 3 sets of 20
2. Runners Knee
The best way that you can prevent runners knee by using proper running technique and form. Record yourself running and you may notice imperfections with your form or you can find a running coach to help retrain yourself, perfect your form to avoid other injuries.
Sometimes runners forget the importance of strength training. Including this into your training routine will not only build the condition of your muscles but also assist in preventing injuries. If you suffer from runner’s knee symptoms, focus your strength training on your quadriceps muscles and glutes.
Below is a recommended resistance band exercises to help you gain flexibility and relieve pain:
Place a loop of resistance band just above your ankles or your knees. Separate your feet and bend your knees, lowering down into a slightly crouched position/athletic stance. While staying in this position, take 10 to 15 sidesteps, keeping your feet straight and your upper body still. Then reverse directions. Keep your feet separated to maintain band tension. You should feel your glute muscles working.
3. Achilles Tendonitis/Tendinosis
At the first sign of achilles pain, begin with rest. This is not an injury that you should try and run through. If you catch it early, a minor irritation may only take a few days to heal but if you keep running, the injury can become severe taking months to heal.
The main cause of achilles tendinitis is repetitive stress on shortened tissue. High volume athletes like distance runners are susceptible to it, due to the shear number if strides they take while training.
Preventing achilles tendonitis starts with your warm up and stretching. This is something to put priority on and is meant to warm your muscles before starting your run. Your warm up should be at least 8 minutes. Below are some warm up recommended routines:
Start with a gradual walk to increase blood flow and move into a jog. Once your heart rate is increased. Work in some dynamic stretches like “toy-soldiers” and “tea-kettles.” Glute-kicks and high knees are effective as well. Lateral movement like shuffling side to side for several strides will help warm up your hips as well.
Additionally, runners should get accustomed to using a foam roller to help the lower leg muscles maintain their proper length and function. I recommend a post run rolling routine that takes 2 minutes for each mile that you ran that day. Example: if you ran 8 miles, use your roller for 16 minutes after the run.
4. Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS)
Even though the pain is usually felt on the outside of the knee, iliotibial band syndrome is correlated with the improper facilitation of the true hip extensor muscles such as gluteus maximus and the dysfunction of gluteus medius.
Just like any injury, the best prevention is warming up adequately before a run, stretching before and after, and listening to your body at the first sign up injury. Once the injury is diagnosed soft tissue work and icing of the symptomatic area can be beneficial. The soft tissue work can be done by a professional or some by self massage with a foam roller. Below I have outlined just one example of how to use the foam roller:
Lie sideways on the foam roller with it under your thigh. Using your body weight to apply pressure roll lengthwise in the soft part of your hip next to where your jeans pocket would be. Be careful to avoid the boney prominences of you knee and hip as they will be tender and could cause some irritation. Roll with focus on the effected hip approximately 5 minutes a day.
5. Stress Fracture
If you have ever had a stress fracture, you are at greater risk to have one again. In fact, sixty percent of athletes who have sustained a stress fracture have had one previously. Stress fractures are more common in women than men. They can occur in the foot, shin or neck of the femur.
A stress fracture isn’t something you can just run through, if you get a stress fracture, you can expect to take eight to sixteen weeks off from running. The greatest way to ensure you don’t get a stress fracture is prevention. Make sure you listen to your body, don’t start training too intense or too quick and consider enlisting help from a professional to reach your running goals.
I hope you are able to get out and participate in the Dam to Dam this weekend. It is important to be conscious of the most common injuries runners encounter and to take precautions as necessary to stay fit and healthy this running season! If you suspect you have one of these conditions be sure to reach out to Dr. Brooks or myself for a consultation. Use the link below to schedule:
Happy running, and we hope to see you out there!
Photo: John Barnhart