Running season is here and this great weather may make you want to dust off your shoes and hit the trail after a long winter and rainy spring. Before you do, take an inventory of any orthopedic issues you might be having. Being mindful about how you return to running might save you a lot of aches and pains. Here are 4 tips to consider when getting back into running:
1.) Running is landing with three times your body weight on one foot, over, and over, and over. Are your joints up to the tasks? Consider your alignment from the ground up: ankle stability, knee alignment and the flexibility and strength of your hips.
Do you have one ankle that has been sprained one or more times? Does one hip collapse or one foot turn out more when you run? This may be a result of muscle/strength imbalance. Do you swing your arms symmetrically? How is your spinal posture when you run? If you are returning to running after pregnancy remember that your pelvis might still be hyper-mobile especially if you are still nursing a baby.
These are just a few body mechanics that greatly impact your risk of getting injured from running. It’s not that you can’t start to run with these conditions, but go easy and seek professional guidance. Start lightly with distance and speed. Focus on being graceful and light. A physical therapist can provide a running gait analysis as well as advice about interventions that work to get you back on track.
2.) Consider your shoes and what’s inside them. Not all feet are the same. The running shoes your friend swears by, might not be the best fit for you. Some things to consider are the shape of your feet (high or low arches) and the strength of your ankles (stiff or wobbly when balancing on one leg). You might like a very supportive shoe or your foot might be more suited to a minimalist running shoe. How strong are your feet? The best support comes from the muscles in your feet. Forces from your feet and shoes travel up the “kinetic chain” and can make a difference in how your knees, hips and back feel after a run. If you are having pain in your feet, legs or back, you might try strengthening your feet and/or a new pair of shoes. Visit our friends at Skinny Raven Sports to find the perfect shoe for you!
3.) Warm up and Cool Down. Before you take off, take your joints (ankles, hips, knees, spine and arms) through a simple range of motion warm up routine to check in with the symmetry of your body. A light jog, high marching, swinging your legs/arms/ankles in circles and gentle rotation of your spine can help get things moving before running. Stretch after your run: Address asymmetries and tight muscles with a good stretching cool down after running. Take care of those sore and stiff spots so they don’t become chronically strained. Using a foam roller or tennis ball to target trigger points can help release unwanted tension.
4.) Good runners have strong hips. Hips guide the alignment of your knees. If a hip is weak it might fatigue after a couple miles and then next thing you know your knee will collapse inward and all kinds of unwanted torque will result in your knee cap, cartilage and tendons. A Physical Therapist can design a hip strengthening program specific to your body.
Alignment, Good Shoes, Flexibility and Strength. If you have these four items covered then you should be off to a great start as you get back into peak running shape. Progressive Physical Therapy is here to help you optimize your running technique, and figure out any aches and pains as you increase your mileage.
By: Alisa Carroll, PT, DPT
Progressive Physical Therapy offers running and gait analysis! Swing by after visiting Fire Island Bakery or give us a call at (907)748-0022 for more information!