Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Running Injuries: The Balance of Running

There is something majestic about a skilled runner. Adequately moving across the ground with ease and finesse. How does that happen? Is it just genetic? The answer is no. Skilled running is  developed. Running skills are developed over time and miles. The ability to run those miles depends on consistent training and staying healthy. Efficient running depends on balancing force.
Healthy running depends on the body’s ability to withstand the force of training. When there are holes in training, the injuries follow. Running injuries are always related to force. The treatment of running injuries comes down to the balance of producing too much force during running (ground reaction force) or the bodies inability to tolerate force (lack of strength and conditioning).
Here are a few of the basic themes on how to manage ground reaction force:
-Controlling vertical displacement. How much up and down is the runner using?
-Foot strike. Is the foot strike out in front of the body or right underneath the base of support? What am I striking with? The foot landing under the belly button with a mid-foot or forefoot strike is the best way to manage food strike. Footwear may influence how foot strike occurs but the body should be dictating how successful foot strike is.
-Training/Pace errors. A pace too slow or too fast can influence ground reaction force. Running too many miles or the wrong amount of miles at the wrong time may influence an increase in ground reaction force. Proper coaching or a running physical therapist can plug in those holes.
-Stride rate (the number of strides per minute). Am I using a rhythm my body can move force up the body with balance? If the feet move too slow the vertical displacement will be too high, if the feet move too fast the force will not spread fast enough to dissipate. There must be balance between stride rate and overall pace.
Here are a few basic themes related to running strength and conditioning:
-Toes. Can the toes work as a dampener? Active healthy toe strength is key to forefoot or mid-foot stance during running.
-Calves. If the toes are active the calves will be too. If the toes are not active the calves will be asked to do too much work. The calf must be able to push the weight of the body in order to run without symptoms.
-Quadriceps/hamstrings-These muscles control the shock absorber of the body, the knee. Not only must these muscles be able to stabilize the knee, they must be able to handle the force of vertical displacement.
-Hip stabilizers. The hip musculature is one of the most important muscles when it comes to running. These muscles serve to rotate the femur (thigh bone) so the thigh muscles can control the weight. Hip muscles hold the knee in place while the thigh muscles do the work. They need each other.
-Core. The core serves to stabilize the spine. The spine is the resting place for ground reaction force. If the knee and hip need each other to tolerate force, the core holds the spine stable so the thigh and hip can funnel the force to the spine.
-Shoulder. Runners are always surprised by the amount of rotator cuff strength running requires. The rotator cuffs job is to hold the humerus (long upper arm bone) in the joint. If the bouncing if running is causing the humerus to want to come out, the rotator cuff must be strong and active to stabilize the shoulder
When treating running injuries it is imperative to identify where the abnormality of force is. The balance between the force production and the force tolerance is key. Every runner is different. The degree to which the ground reaction force that must be eliminated and the amount of strength that the runner needs depends on a very complex mixture of factors. Find your local running expert to help you reestablish balance. When you decide to get treatment, be sure the professional is taking your running gait into play. If not, the status of the balance the runner is using is unknown. Happy running and hope you find the balance you seek.


Karl Stutelberg said...

Great post! As the arms go, so do the legs. What does a coach say to get you to run faster? "Pump your arms harder!" What are the connected by? The Core! This is why the pushup is such a great exercise for runners, and most runners can barely do one...correctly.

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