FALL IS RACING SEASON. MANY RUNNER AND SOME WALKERS WILL PICK A GOAL RACE, possibly a marathon or half marathon, and begin training. The best ending for this scenario is that all goes as planned and everyone arrives at their event healthy and ready to achieve a personal best. Unfortunately, some will be sidelined by an injury before making it to the start line, and some may encounter a problem during or after the competition.
The time to worry about injury prevention is before training, before racing.
MATT FITZGERALD’S ARTICLE “Are Shoes Really to Blame for Running Injuries” for running.competitor.com draws attention to the fact that the sport is associated with a greater risk of injury than sports like swimming and cycling. He refers to a 1998 scientific study that investigated the occurrence of injuries among elite triathletes and found that “62.1percent of injuries suffered during a five year period were caused by running, 34.5 percent by cycling and only 3.4 percent by swimming.”
Fitzgerald goes on to discuss evidence that “overbuilt” shoes contribute to the problem by relating the experience of the meagerly shod Tarahurmara tribe of Mexico, made famous in the book Born to Run by author Christopher McDougall. And then the other factors that may play a role in injury: excess body weight, “sedentariness”, and running on hard surfaces.
It’s worth thinking about which of the factors is likely to influence our individual risk for injury. I know, because I’ve had some soft tissue injuries over the years, which tended to occur when I was training particularly hard. My finish times were decreasing and I was thrilled to be in the hunt for a decent place in my age group for each upcoming race. What I did not realize at the time is that, because of the high impact nature of running, it would have been better to limit running time to high-yield workouts (speed, hills, intervals) rather than to ‘just run’ for the sake of running each and every day of the week.
If you read Fitzgerald, pay attention to the part about sedentariness: “Being active in diverse ways outside of running actually encourages healthier running. An active lifestyle outside of running helps prevent most of the muscular and postural imbalances that are so common in our society and that contribute to injuries because e of reduced joint stability.” In this regard Fitzgerald again points to the Tarahumara as examples of a high-mileage running people for whom physical activity is not confined to 45 minutes of scheduled high-impact exercise.
With his advice in mind, consider confining training runs to 3-4 days a week and using 1-3 days to enjoy another sport or to significantly increase the amount of time spent at non-exercise physical activity. These are the activities of daily living that we try to avoid at our homes and work; chores that we gladly give up or pay a premium to others to perform for us in the name of convenience. Maybe it best to take-back the chores!
Overbuilt shoes may play a role in causing running injuries, but Fitzgerald indicates It is too easy to blame equipment and ignore how we use it.
If you want to enjoy making it to a Fall race day event without being sidelined by injury, think about taking steps to remain healthy before training begins. Plan to run/walk some sessions on softer surfaces, and to stay physically active for a greater percent of each day in ways that don't involve just running/walking. A Runnersworld.com piece also discusses ways in which joint damage may be avoided. In addition to managing bodyweight issues, it recommends stretching more and in a gentle manner.
Re-think your shoe strategy too. Instead of purchasing the 'go-to' shoe brand and model you've been wearing for years, put extra time into researching what's new. Perhaps a 'less-is-more' approach to footwear may work for you.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
BRIDGE TO PHYSICAL SELF
Running, walking, and fitness activities enable us to experience our physical selves in a world mostly accessed through use of fingers on a mobile device.
EARNED RUNS is edited and authored by me, runner and founder. I began participating in road races before 5Ks were common. I've been a dietitian, practiced and taught clinical pathology, and been involved with research that utilized pathology. I am fascinated with understanding the origins of disease as well as health.
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