It’s typical of this time of year that we see a range of health and wellness goals around running and upcoming running events. Whether it be trying to run 5km without a break or training for the Gold Coast Marathon, it is important to plan and train for your running goals appropriately, to avoid injury.
Injuries such as shin splints, Achilles tendinopathy, anterior knee pain, calf strains and plantar fascia are all common running injuries that we see as people get back into the swing of things with their running regime. Unlike many other sports you were taught growing up, it is unlikely that you were taken through the mechanics of running, which means as you increase your volume in training you could be increasing your risk of injury if you aren’t using the most efficient running techniques.
How your foot interacts with the ground, how good your muscle control is around your hip as well as other factors can be critical in making your running technique more efficient, and decreasing your risk of injury.
QSMC is fortunate to have a number of physiotherapists with experience in treating runners over a long period. Dolph Francis, an ex-elite runner in his own right, has a specific interest in running mechanics and has helped many runners around Brisbane with his running analysis and technique correction work.
A couple of quick tests can help runners check if they have the necessary ankle range and calf strength to help you avoid injury:
To assess the flexibility of the calf and ankle we get the patient to place a ruler perpendicular to the wall.
The last point you can manage is the measurement. Ideally we are looking for around 11-13cm. You need at least 5-7cm to be able to functionally go down stairs, sit down or squat down.
The patient stands on one leg and rises up and down onto their toes as many times as they can.
The magic number we are looking for to indicate adequate strength in the muscle is the ability to do 30 single calf raises on each leg with good technique at a slow and even rhythm.
In addition to having the right strength and mobility we know that a few small adjustments can make a big difference to your running technique to help avoid injury and improve your running time. Here are Dolph’s top 3 tips for technique:
A common issue we see is the foot of the runner crossing the midpoint of the body. This can lead to knee and hip issues and your body to fatigue quicker. An easy way to correct this is to practice running down a line ensuring that your feet are landing underneath hips on either side of the line. Your normal stance should have you with a fist distance between your feet and it should be the same when you are running.
If your foot is landing in front of your body it will introduce a break-force into your running gait slowing down your run until you get over the top of your foot. An easy indicator that you may be doing this is if you are landing on a straight leg, or on your heel or flat foot. To correct this you want to make sure you are landing with a bend in your knee, allowing you to drive to the ground to get the foot fall under your body landing more on your mid to forefoot. This will feel like your body is in a slightly more forward position, rather than straight upright or back.
Running at a slow cadence (speed) puts you at risk of your body being in a lazy position which in turn means you won’t be using your muscles as effectively for running. To get a nice efficient and strong running speed, use a metronome to measure your pace. Use your phone to download a metronome app and then aim for between 165 to 180 cadence. As you progress your pace you will get a better foot fall to the ground, helping your propulsion and body positioning. Your foot should fall in time with the ticking of the metronome, start slow and build up to the appropriate cadence to you and you will see how it can make a difference in the way you hold your body.
For more technique tips or an assessment on your individual running style, contact our team to book an appointment with Dolph.