The season is coming to an end, at least in the northeast. Many of us are leaving 2013 with PR’s or plan to in the next 4 weeks, while far too many are looking to forget the terror that 2013 served. Runners scarred with a nasty limp or distinct recollection of lugging around a sweaty walking boot. Whether 2013 was plagued with countless injuries, subpar performances, or presented you with PR’s, all of us are looking to start fresh for 2014. Face it, this past summer was rough. You beat yourself up even if your avoided the injury bug.
Every runner developed or worsened dysfunction this past summer, likely piling on from previous years. Dysfunction is a term we use to define less than ideal movement. It could be as simple as a weak hip or tight ankle, but the effects can ripple throughout the body. Don’t freak out. It’s ok. Your body can handle short time frames of dysfunction. It’s cool like that. What it can’t handle is years of compensated, ugly, poor movement.
We build dysfunction through breakdown that naturally occurs through training. Something as simple as the crown of the road can create excessive mobility of your right foot, while preventing movement at your left. Mile after mile the two sides of your body are altered, hardwiring dysfunction into your gait and movement. Left unaddressed it can easily gift wrap you an overuse injury. The combinations are endless but they happen.
How does dysfunction affect your ability to run?
Weakness or hypomobility cause compensated stresses at other areas, degrading and softening tissue. The tissue literally becomes load intolerant. More than injuries, dysfunction prevents you from punishing the ground at the end of your stride. You lose your explosive propulsion as joints compensate, drag, and lose stability. Dysfunction causes injury, yes, but it also yields slower running.
Remember this: the absence of soreness doesn’t equate to ‘recovered’. Your legs can feel fresh if your hips are weak. You can still run pain free with an ankle screaming for help. November through February is where the foundation is laid for a successful summer. You need to rebuild from the war you fought on the roads all summer.
The right combination comes in the mix of rest and run specific exercise. We’re not talking about going to the gym and racking off squats, knee extensions, leg curls, or crunches either. You’re far better off with bodyweight supported exercise. You need to back off on training too. For many it means backing off completely to rebuild, for others the recipe is one part slow running three parts strength training. Again, your strength training should equate to bench press, biceps curls, and sculpting your triceps, but run specific, deliberate, exercise that address common running dysfunction.
Recovery at the end of the season is for just that, recovery. Go out and have fun. Run a festive 5K or take the pooch out for a trail run. The old rule of thumb, “A day recovery for every mile raced” is a great rule to follow. Just remember that recovery doesn’t mean you have to sit on the couch and pack on the freshmen 15. Recover actively through easy runs and cross training.
Fighting dysfunction can be easier than you think. Most of us have overlapping dysfunction as we develop into a sitting society. If you can’t get your hands on a skilled clinician, you should, at the very least, work these few exercises into routine throughout the winter.