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Close-up of a woman sitting with an icepack on her leg

Consider Shortening Your Stride
This comes as a bit of a surprise because it’s not discussed much in running circles. Nonetheless, more than half the experts I interviewed mentioned it. And a December 2009 study reports that runners who shorten their stride by 10 percent could reduce risk of tibial stress fracture by three to six percent. The basic idea: Overstriding is a common mistake that can lead to decreased efficiency and increased injury risk. If you shorten your stride, you’ll land “softer” with each footfall, incurring lower impact forces. “A shorter stride will usually lower the impact force, which should reduce injuries,” says biomechanist Alan Hreljac, Ph.D., a retired researcher from California State University-Sacramento. For the last decade, Davis has been researching runners’ abilities to change their stride. Previously, experts believed that your stride was as immutable as your fingerprint, but Davis has used biofeedback equipment to disprove the old view. “We have shown that running and walking gait can be altered in such a way as to reduce pain, improve function, and reduce injury risk,” she says.

ACTION PLAN:
If you’ve had frequent running injuries, you might want to experiment running with your normal stride, just slightly shorter—about 10 percent. “This will help reduce your stride so you have more turnover,” Davis says. “The number of footstrikes or repetitions trumps having a longer stride because it reduces your impact load.” Start with a short distance, like a quarter mile, when making this change. If you have an injury that’s related to your gait, see a physical therapist.

Use Strength Training To Balance Your Body
You need something—and what better than muscle?—to keep your body properly aligned while you’re running down the road at 450 pounds of crunching, twisting-in, and torquing-out force per stride. According to Ferber, it’s particularly important to strengthen the hip muscles. He claims his clinic has cured 92 percent of knee injuries with a hip regimen. “Strengthening the hips is optimal for effective rehabilitation, as opposed to treating the area where the pain is located (e.g., your knee),” he says. “When you strengthen the hips—the abductors, adductors, and gluteus maximus—you increase your leg stability all the way down to the ankle.”

ACTION PLAN:
You don’t want to train for bulging muscles. You need just enough core, hip, and lower-leg strength training to keep your pelvis and lower-extremity joints properly positioned. “Healthy running should be as symmetrical and fluid as possible,” says Michael Fredericson, M.D., associate professor of sports medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine. “If you don’t have muscle balance, then you lose the symmetry, and that’s when you start having problems.”

RICE Works
When you’ve got muscle aches or joint pains, there’s nothing better than rest, ice, compression, and elevation for immediate treatment. These measures can relieve pain, reduce swelling, and protect damaged tissues, all of which speed healing. The only problem with RICE is that too many runners focus on the “I” while ignoring the “RCE.” Ice reduces inflammation, but to ice-and-run, ice-and-run, without giving the tissues enough time to heal, is a little like dieting every day until 6 p.m. and then pigging out. And so Bruce Wilk, an orthopedic rehabilitation specialist in Miami, has added another letter to the acronym, spelling out PRICE. The P stands for “protection,” which means don’t run until the injury is better.

ACTION PLAN:
RICE is most effective when done immediately following an injury. If you twist your ankle or strain your hamstring, plan to take a few days off from running (see Law II). Apply ice—for 10 to 15 minutes at a time, several times a day. A homemade ice pack—a baggie filled with ice cubes and water—is best. A bag of frozen vegetables is also effective. If you can, elevate the area (easy for foot and ankle injuries, not so much for hip or hamstring issues) to limit swelling.

Compression can also further reduce inflammation and can provide pain relief, especially when you first return to running. An ACE bandage is the simplest way to wrap a swollen area, but Amol Saxena, a sports podiatrist in Palo Alto, California, uses a compression dressing with 3M Coban, a self-adherent over-the-counter product. He then uses Kinesio Tex Tape or a Darco Body Armor Walker for when the swelling goes down. “The tape pulls up the skin slightly, allowing more blood to flow to the injured area,” he says. He teaches runners, including 2008 Olympic bronze medalist Shalane Flanagan, how to put it on themselves. An alternative that may also be worn regularly to prevent injury as well as reduce its symptoms are compression foot sleeves. 

[Excerpt from full article by Runners World to be found here]

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