I hurt myself training for the 2009 Chicago Marathon back in the fall of 2009 when I first moved to Charlottesville. I hadn’t had any problems that whole summer, running about 25 miles per week. When I got to Cville, though, I needed to figure out two crucial things: 1) where to run my long runs and 2) where it was relatively flat (if that even existed here). After about 2 weeks here I stumbled upon my current long run route, out in White Hall. While it’s relatively flat there are still elvevation gains and small, but steep, hills throughout the route. For 3.5 miles one way it is all uphill. Then for the 3.5 miles back its downhill. Repeat that a few times over the course of a 20 miler and that can really impact a runner who is used to flat terrain (I mean, I couldn’t find a hill in the city Boston if I tried…I’d have to drive out and run in Newton or on the Boston Marathon course!).
I started having some major hip pain during one of my 18 mile runs, only about 5 weeks away from the race. To make a long story short I had some bad bursitis in that hip caused from tackling the hilly terrain too fast. My body wasn’t strong or ready enough. I did some intensive PT over the following few months, really working on a few major things. While everyone knows how to run, they might not know that good running form requires practice. These are things I think ALL runners can benefit from even if they aren’t injured. Some are pretty obvious, but I think runners should constantly be practicing their good form:
- Land on the forefoot as much as possible. While I’m not totally into the barefoot running movement, I think there are good things to be learned from it. Like how our feet are supposed to work and handle the forces of running so we don’t get injured. Going along with this…
- Make sure your plantar fascia (the muscles and tissues in your feet) are loose so that you can roll off the front of your feet. If your feet are like blocks, they’re also not adequately absorbing the impact of running…leading to injury. Best way to do this is just roll your foot on a tennis ball (feels so good!) and do some foot/toe stretches.
- Increase your cadence. “Overstriding” is a major issue and I’ve worked hard to increase my cadence (how quickly my feet turn over) so that I reduce the chance of injury. Runner’s World says: “Some runners, particularly beginners, have the misconception that to get faster, they need to cover more ground with every stride. But for distance runners, that’s seldom the right formula for faster times. In fact, it can lead to “overstriding” and a greater risk of injuries. The real secret to improvement at distances from the 5-K on up is faster turnover, or cadence. Turnover simply means the number of times your feet push off during each minute of running. Most runners get locked into a cadence that feels comfortable. Unfortunately, if you don’t work to speed up your turnover (180 footstrikes per minute is considered optimal), that rhythm will slow down as you age.” I’ve been working on getting 180 footstrikes to feel natural when I run (so I hit it even when I don’t think about it for awhile). As of now I’m there. My doctor last week put me on a treadmill and said that it’s not a problem. But it’s something I will continue to work on. The most important thing to remember is an increase in cadence does not mean an increase in speed. You can work on your cadence easily by setting a treadmill to 5.6 or some really slow level and working on your foot turnover (I do this once a week and I know I look silly…but so what). You can check out the rest of the article and some drills here.
- I’ve talked a bit about this, but here’s one of the most important things to do: INCREASE GLUTE STRENGTH. I have dead butt syndrome. This means my glutes don’t fire when I run. They are literally dead. That means my hip flexors and quads take the majority of the work. This type of imbalance has surely led to my injuries. It is so important for your glutes to do half if not a majority of the workload when you run (the hip flexor allows you to push your leg forward, the glutes and hamstrings allow you to pull it back). You can read about the importance of glute strength and some exercises, which I work on constantly, here.