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Kara Glasco, MS, RCEP, HFS

If you’ve started a 5, 8, or 10k training plan for the fall, I have a few things for you to consider while you are training.  In "Fall Fitness Goals, Part 1," (Scroll down),  I highlighted common running program problems and how to select a safe and effective training plan.  Even if you have embarked on the perfect 5k plan, there is always a slight risk of injury due to the high impact nature of running.   Have you ever met a runner who didn’t experience a few aches or pains during their training?  In Part 2, I will concentrate on common running injuries, corrective exercises for these injuries, and why the right running shoes are so important.

Common Running Injuries

I believe that every runner, beginner or elite, has experienced the twinge of runner’s knee or burn of achilles tendonitis.  With so many different factors affecting the joints, it is no wonder running injuries are so common. Factors such as gait, stride length, foot strike, body weight, training surface and muscular imbalances can all affect your injury risk. According to Runner’s World Magazine, some of the most common running injuries are patellofemoral pain syndrome (runner’s knee), achilles tendinitis, hamstring issues, plantar fasciitis, shin splints, IT band syndrome and stress fractures (1).  Any of these injuries can affect a runner, but patellofemoral pain, hamstring issues, shin splints, and IT band syndrome tend to affect more novice runners.  These four common injuries can be worked through with strengthening exercises, stretching and myofascial release.  Plantar fasciitis, achilles tendonitis and stress fractures are much more serious and a visit to the doctor is a must.

Stretch, Strengthen, and Foam Roll

A multitude of factors can cause any of these common running injuries including muscle imbalances, weak joints, foot pronation and trying to run too much too quickly. Patellofemoral pain can be caused by overpronation of the foot or weak gluteal muscles, which cause the knee to turn inward as you run (1).  Hamstring issues arise from improper muscle length that leads to muscle weakness.  Your hamstrings may be overstretched, but most sedentary office workers tend to have excessively tight hamstrings due to prolonged sitting.  Shin splints occur when high amounts of stress are placed on the anterior muscles of tibia causing micro tears in the muscle (1).  Shin splints are generally a sign of doing too much too quickly whether it be mileage or pace.  IT band issues can arise from weak glutes, weak hip abductors and also trying to go too hard too fast.  Below I have some suggestion for alleviating these running ailments.  If your pain last longer than a few weeks, you should consult a qualified medical professional.

Treatment Suggestions

Patellofemoral pain: Rest + glute strengthening exercises (lateral exercises, squats, lunges) + stretch hip flexors + change stride length or foot strike.

Hamstring Issues: For tight muscles stretch and foam roll daily + strengthen exercises (hip bridges, leg curls, deadlifts)

Shin Splints: Rest + Ice + NSAIDs + stretches and strengthen muscles of the anterior tibia + modify training program (increase training time for slower progression) + change stride length or foot strike + foam rolling calf muscles may help

IT Band Issues: Rest + Foam roll IT band + stretch hip flexors + strengthen glutes, quads, and hip abductors (lateral exercises, squats, lunges) + modify training program (increase training time for slower progression)

One of the great perks of running is it requires little to no equipment except for a pair of running shoes.  Believe it or not, but old or improper running shoes can contribute to any of the injuries listed above.  When deciding on the right pair of shoes, I suggest visiting a specialized running store.  Most specialized stores can assess your feet for arch issues, pronation issues, and width needs.  If you have an abnormal foot type, don’t be surprised if the right shoe cost upwards of $120.00.  Spending a little extra cash for right shoe will not only help you train better, but save you from the aches and pains in the long run.

1 Sources - Aschwanden, Christie. "The Big 7 Body Breadowns." Runner's World 3 Feb. 2011: 49-60. Web.

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