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Injury Prevention
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INJURY PREVENTION: The first step to reduce your chances of run injury is to develop consistent habits pre- and post-workout. Rushing into a run workout is unwise. Runs are tough on the body, but you can reduce the stress by stretching and warming up. Light stretching helps to prepare muscles for the activity to follow. Speeding up gradually: walking, then jogging, then building into your planned pace gives your joints, tendons, and muscles time to lubricate and work up to operating temperature. Before intensity work on the track, trail, or road, you need at least 8-minutes at a casual pace.

There are many catalysts for run injuries; physical breakdowns can originate from both mechanical and overuse issues. What I describe as mechanical issues might be structural problems with your feet, lower legs, knees, hips, even posture issues originating from your hips and back. Overuse injuries may begin from too much distance, too much intensity, not enough recovery between tough workouts, or just too much running too soon.

Some common mechanical (structural) problems are flat arches, foot instability, leg length differences. Other subtle challenges are wide hips, leg alignment like bowed-legs, or knock knees. You can work with most of these problems with the right run shoes, orthotics, and maybe less frequent runs supplemented with other aerobic activities.

Many athletes I coach cope with challenges that limit their weekly distance; they still run well on race day due to their overall fitness which is in a large part determined by their total aerobic training time.

Shin splints and plantar fasciitis can both almost always be prevented (or resolved) with additional arch support. With shin splints the posterior tibialis muscle pulls away from the backside of the shin (tibia). This happens because the arch flattens too much with foot plant; then it tugs at the supporting tendon that runs behind your ankle bone, which in turn goes up the shin and connects to posterior tibialis.

Your plantar fascia is also involved in holding up your arch. The trouble spot in plantar fasciitis is where it connects to your heel bone. If it pulls away from the bone there's constant inflammation that you'll feel in the morning when you first stand up and stretch it, also at the beginning of a run. The solution is more arch support in all your shoes.

Runners' knee is a general term that can be attributed to several different problems. Sensitivity can be on either the medial (inside), or lateral (outside) meniscus (the cartilage in the knee joint that helps cushion and align). A leg alignment issue can shift too much weight to the medial or lateral meniscus and this mechanical problem can often be improved with orthotics.

Iliotibial band problems can often also be reduced with orthotics that shift more stress to the medial side of the knee.

Nearly all knee issues can be reduced by running on soft surfaces. Going with an every-other-day sequence can really help as your legs will have more time to recover between runs. Recovery and healing don't happen as fast for athletes over 40, so a different set of rules apply for them when planning weekly workouts.

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