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Spring Forward: Back to Running

by Caroline Burns, DPT, PT, FRCms

Spring: the weather is getting warmer, the days are getting longer, and you may be coming out of running hibernation. If you took a few months off or tapered your running during the winter, and are getting ready to start putting in more miles, there are a few things to keep in mind to help stave off potential injuries.

n-SPORT-large570It’s estimated that nearly 80% of runners experience injuries each year. The most frequent cause is overuse. Repetitive movements, over prolonged periods of time, cause a culmination of forces within the body’s tissues (muscles, bones, ligaments and tendons). If your body’s tissues are not strong enough or trained well enough to accommodate these forces, injuries can occur. As you start ramping up your mileage this spring, keep this in mind.

  • Ramp up slowly
    • It’s important not to jump back into the mileage and intensity that you may have been training at last fall.
    • Be careful about adding up the miles too quickly.
    • The general rule for increasing mileage is that you should increase by no more than 10-percent each week.
    • That means, if you start at 10 miles your first week back, you should only add 1 mile to your second week! See, progress should be SLOW!
    • If you are injury prone or currently recovering from an injury, you should limit yourself to a five percent increase every week.
    • This may be slow and tedious but it is the safest way to reduce the risk of an overuse injury.
  • Get new equipment
    • Check your running shoes for wear and think about investing in a new pair.
    • It is suggested to get a new pair of shoes every 300-500 miles of running.
    • If you also wear your running shoes to the gym, out doing errands or while at work, you may want to consider getting shoes before the 500-mile mark.
    • You may also want to consider having more than one pair of running shoes so that you can alternate days/shoes in order to maintain them longer.
  • Get a running analysis done
    • Many running shoe stores have trained staff who can evaluate your foot strike patterns in order to recommend the best shoe for you.
    • A physical therapist can provide a more in-depth look into your running gait to identify any potential biomechanical pitfalls, which may lead to injury.
    • Physical therapists can evaluate your cadence, heel strike pattern, stride length, hip and trunk positioning, muscle strength, flexibility and joint mobility in order to get a full body picture of your body’s running status and capabilities.
    • If you are struggling with a running injury, make sure to see a physical therapist who can identify and treat the causes.
  • Warm up
    • Running on cold, stiff muscles is a recipe for injury.
    • It is recommended to start each run with a light dynamic warm up, which may include some walking and callisthenic type movements (jumping jacks, side shuffles, walking lunges, step ups, high knees, butt kicks).
    • Light and gentle foam rolling before a run has been shown to be effective in improving range of motion and flexibility before exercise without negatively affecting speed or power production.
    • Save your static stretches for after your workout. Research shows that static stretching before exercise can actually negatively affect your force and power production.
  • Cool down
    • A proper cool down is just as important as a warm up in preventing injuries.
    • Now is the time to perform your static stretches.
    • Stretch the top five running muscles: the quads, glutes, calves, hamstring and hip flexors).
    • Each stretch should last 20-30 seconds and be performed 2-3x per muscle group.
    • If you have questions about the proper stretches to do to prevent and reduce injury, reach out to your physical therapist.
  • Have fun!


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