Injuries are part of running whether you like it or not. There’s rarely a single step that causes an injury, but rather the summation of thousands to millions of identical steps that wear you down over time. Think of dripping water eating away at ice. It’s not a single drop that causes the ice to melt, but the summation of thousands of drops over time, much the way a sinkhole forms over thousands of years. The collapse of a sinkhole doesn’t happen overnight. Soil erodes until a critical point is hit where the soil cannot support the structures on top of it.
Where Our Injuries Occur
The majority of our injuries occur between initial contact, the point where our foot first touches the ground, and mid stance, the point at which our foot is directly beneath our center of mass. During this short period of time our bones are distributing upwards of three times our body weight into tendons, ligaments, and cartilage. Our bones roll, glide, and rotate with velocity, all of which is controlled by our elongating muscular system. The muscles and tendons decelerate our body into the ground, regroup, and contract, transferring stored energy into push off.
What does this mean for you?
If you’re injured now, or have been in the past, you’ll want to understand this concept. You need to grasp that the majority of our injuries occur due to loading issues, not push off. Too often runners attack Achilles tendon injuries, knee injuries, and countless others by working on the wrong half of their gait cycle. Exercises like calf raises focus primarily on the latter half of said cycle, completely neglecting the poor loading issues in the first half. The rotation and spinning into the ground is what kills us, not being weak at push off.
There are some fairly simple lifestyle changes you can adopt to help you along the way. The changes won’t interrupt your running, but simply supplement it. You’ll be faster, stronger, and more durable because of it.
Working a trail run in every week is typically easier than fitting in additional workouts. Try to make a point to dedicate a rest day or easy run day to improving strength. We’ve seen tremendous results with as little as 2, 30 minute run specific workouts a week. Be careful with becoming content. Our memories are short, especially when an injury subsides. Remember how it felt to be sitting on your couch while your friends were on training runs. You felt miserable, lazy, and likely depressed. Use it to fuel your fire to become a smarter, stronger, runner. Caution yourself against saying, “I’ll start strength training later this week, next week, or next month.” Carpe Diem!