I love running. Interval running, hill running, even those long distance marathon-style runs that take every ounce of energy to complete. However, it appears that running doesn't love me back. As soon as I start to pound the pavement, old injuries flair up and I'm plagued with pesky pains. Shin splints, joint pain, knee and lower back pain. Sound familiar?
Rehabilitation is a key factor in any runner's regime, whether this may be a visit to a physiotherapist or a weekly sports massage. My love of running resulted in weekly appointments with a chiropractor to ease my lower back pain, and I'm not alone. According to recent research conducted by the American Academy of Physical Medicine, nearly 70 percent of runners will sustain an injury at some point in their lives.
The truth is that running is an impact sport and as a result it does take its toll on your joints over time but improving your running technique could be all you need to do to get back on the road. Can running technique be taught? With this in mind, here are four things that could be affecting your running form and how to correct them.
You're Wearing the Wrong Trainers
If you are a beginner, you may think that any old trainers will do. While there is no point in investing in a new pair of running trainers right off the bat (after all you may decide after your first run that this sport is not for you), if you plan to run regularly, you will need high performance footwear that offers the correct amount of support. If you have been running for more than a year in the same trainers, this could be the root of the problem. It is recommended that you should invest in specialist running shoes and replace your trainers every 300-350 miles.
You Haven't Warmed Up
Running is one of the easiest ways to keep fit. You don't need an expensive gym membership and you don't have to waste precious time driving to and from the gym. Simply put on your running shoes, open the front door and run. Because of its accessible nature, it can be tempting to skip the warmup. According to Runner's World, stretching and warming up your muscles before you run is one of the easiest ways to minimize risk of injury.
Some of your muscles will be weaker than others and often the stronger ones will overcompensate for the weaker ones. For example, when I started running, the muscles in my lower back would overcompensate as a result of my core weakness. There are many ways to strengthen your core with strength training or pilates. As little as one to two strength training sessions per week can make a huge difference to your core and as a result your running technique.
You're Over Training
According to Runner's World you are more likely to be susceptible to over training if you are a long distance runner but even if you are doing short sprints you could still be at risk. Your recovery time is a key factor in preventing injuries and if you reduce your recovery time due to overtraining, this is when problems start to arise.
These are all common factors that can influence your odds of sustaining an injury and taking these tips into account can help to minimise your chance of experiencing foot pain, shin splints and lower back pain. However, Matt Fitzgerald suggests in his latest book The Mind-Body Method of Running by Feel that everyone has their own running technique and while steps can be taken to improve it, it cannot be taught via cookie cutter training. I agree that there is no one size fits all approach to running technique but that with the right knowledge, you have the power to change your technique for the better.
Focus on Your Form With CAREN
So, what can you do to shed some light on why you are prone to running injuries? CAREN (Computer Assisted Rehabilitation Environment) uses 360-degree cameras to assess your running technique and highlights the areas that have room for improvement. This futuristic technology may sound like something from the space age but it is a virtual reality system that focusses on pain, posture and balance.
If you have ever shopped for new running trainers in a specialist running shop and been asked to hop on a treadmill so that an expert can analyse your gait and then use this information to make a footwear recommendation based on the results, you will know how the latest technology can highlight the errors of your ways. CAREN takes this idea one step further as its innovative system highlights which muscles are being activated when you walk or run. The force plate records your movements and provides feedback in real time.
Is poor posture getting in the way of your fitness goals? Could you benefit from gait retraining? Have you ever tried computer assisted rehabilitation?