Every athlete wants to run faster; that’s the goal of any sport, to be faster than your opponent. Beat your opponent to the ball, to the spot, or across the finish line. The sport that embodies this more than any other is the sport of running, where straight-line speed dictates success.
For your entire life, you’ve been training the engines of your body to be faster. But have you ever stopped to think about training the brakes? Are you a Ferrari engine on Toyota Corrola brakes? If you’ve never stopped to think about it, let alone actually train the brakes, you probably are; and because of that, you greatly increase your risk of running-related injury.
Indeed, in strength and conditioning circles we realize that most injuries are deceleration-based, occurring when slowing down from higher speeds or on impact with the ground. In no sport are impact-related injuries more prevalent than the sport of distance running. It is the continuous effect of repetitive impact on the same muscle, bones, and connective tissue structures that wears away at this tissue and leads to overuse injury (such as shin splints, stress fractures, and tendonitis).
These overuse injuries don’t need to happen to you. Follow these four simple steps and you’ll be able to run injury free this summer:
: Less of you means less compressive stress on musculoskeletal structures when you make contact with the ground, bottom-line. Since impact forces when running are anywhere between 2-3 times body weight, the more you reduce your body weight, the less compression that occurs on impact. This is one of the simplest ways to prevent injuries.
Apply the 10% Rule: Don’t increase your running volume by more than 10% over any given one-week period. The slower the buildup, the better chance you give your body to mechanically acclimate to the stresses you’re placing on it. This longer acclimation period means stronger, more resilient tissues that can better withstand repetitive impact. As an example, if last week you ran 15 miles, you shouldn’t exceed 16.5 miles this week.
Weight Train: Resistance training is a great way to strength muscle, bone, and connective tissue. Even 2 short 30min sessions during the week can go a long way towards injury prevention. Try to train all the major muscles in your body with 2-3 sets, performing 12-15 reps/set (for beginners) and 4-8 reps/set (for more advanced trainees). Be sure you focus on the lower extremity musculature, as this is where we are trying to prevent injuries.
Train the Brakes: Incorporate deceleration-based training into your program prior to your strength training, 2 days/week. The goal of deceleration-based training is simple; rather than train the muscles when they’re contracting (like you do when you’re weight lifting), strengthen them while they’re lengthening (like when they activate on impact with the ground during running). The following is a simple deceleration-based workout that any runner can follow:
Implement these simple steps and this can be a fun and injury-free running season for you. Remember, a healthy runner is a happier runner.