You are psyched to become the runner that you've always dreamed of being. You've unwrapped your shiny new pair of kicks and are ready to pound the pavement- or are you?
Sheila Klausner, a Senior Physical Therapist at the AdventHealth Sports Med and Rehab program, offers her tips for safely becoming the best runner that you can be.
Focus on Your Training
If you take care of your training it will take care of you. Even if you're not training for a specific race, you still must condition your body to carry out the demands of running.
Running is a high-impact exercise that involves many muscle groups, joints, tendons and ligaments in your body. It's a good idea to get a conditioning plan from a physical therapist so you can properly meet this demand. Runners often spend so much energy on mileage and forget about strength training as well, says Klausner.
Klausner further explains that runners should do exercises that force movement in several planes of motion. This strengthens muscles important for running in the frontal plane, like the hip abductor and rotator muscles. The deep hip muscles must be able to stabilize leg bones as they start pounding the ground, she adds.
A runners core and upper body strength are also important. During a run, your upper back and shoulder girdle sustain your head and shoulders, and your arms are constantly swinging alongside you. Running impacts your entire body, so your training should too.
Find the Perfect Fit
Running shoes are not one size fits all. Your perfect shoe can be difficult to pinpoint without help from an expert. If you have high arches or are prone to conditions like plantar fasciitis, you will need shoes that compensate for this.
The right running shoe will help support and balance your body to prevent injuries, says Klausner. She often evaluates a runners biomechanics and gives her recommendations for how a shoe could best support a runners physical therapy goals. Then, local patients can take her recommendations to Track Shack, where their experts can find the right fit.
Klausner also suggests looking at your shoes tread to decide if the shoes need to be replaced. If you start to see too much wear on one area of the shoe, it might be an indication that you are putting too much force in that area, and that you also need new running shoes, she adds. For people who run often, three to four months is a shoes average lifespan. Your tread will also be affected by the surface on which you're running. For example, trail running requires a different tread compared to that which would be best for track or pavement running.
Runners often come for physical therapy when they have knee pain, which is frequently caused by IT band syndrome, explains Klausner. The IT band runs back and forth over the femur (thigh bone), and it attaches to a muscle at the top of the hip, which needs to be strong in different planes of motion. If that muscle is weak, runners might start to feel pain.
Through a series of assessments, Klausner says that she can determine if this muscle or others are weak and would make a runner susceptible to different injuries. Her assessments test range of motion, strength, dynamic function, and common movement patterns. Then, she can target where to focus strength and flexibility training to correct imbalances.
Klausner adds that after about one- to two months of consistent training exercises, muscles start to adapt and patients begin to feel a difference in their running performance. In addition to strengthening weak zones, she recommends stretching after you are warm to increase flexibility.
All that said, a shiny new pair of running shoes will only take you so far before you're running or limping back home. Learn how to train your body so it will take care of you as you become the runner of your dreams. Running can be a truly fulfilling activity for mind, body and spirit- just be sure to get off on the right foot with proper training, gear and your utmost safety in mind, Klausner concludes.