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Were You Born to Run?

The notion that human beings were “born to run” certainly has inspired me to think deeply about running.  The book that bears this notion as its title, Born To Run, written by Christopher McDougall, is a must-read for those who enjoy recreational running.   But this blog isn’t about the book or the theory.  The point here is to discuss how this theory, turned popular mantra, has potentially led some straight into acute or overuse injury.

Many people are able to run, but does this mean they should start running recreationally?  Running is a sport of repetitive movement, and due to this, can be a very difficult sport to avoid injury in even the most experienced of runners.   As the volume of running mounts, so too do the forces that create strain on the body.  If the principles of gradual progressive training are not observed, it is only a matter of when, not if, injury will set in.

Part of what makes running such a great sport is how widely accessible it is to people.  However, this can be a problem if those who wish to start running recreationally don’t understand that there is a certain level of foundational mobility, strength, and neuromuscular control required to participate safely.  There are a variety of reasons people get injured running.  Perhaps they are predisposed due to a past injury or certain technique factors that lead to increased impact forces.  However, it is often due to integrating and progressing into a running regimen too quickly.  This applies not only to limiting yourself to 10% increases in mileage per week as a runner, but equally as important, to ensuring you have established the necessary aerobic, bone, musculotendinous, and joint resiliency through proper running prep work.

Below are examples/suggestions of necessary prep work before logging the miles:

Establishing an aerobic base.  Start by walking and gradually build your intensity and distance while not exceeding an intensity that allows you to breathe purely through your nose. You should not be laboring to avoid mouth-breathing either.  Theoretically, this will keep you at an “aerobic” intensity.  If you have the know-how and equipment, establish and monitor your heart rate zones.

Joint mobility for better body mobility.  You must ensure that all joints in your body are capable of, and accustomed to, moving in the ways that they will during an activity like running.  Don’t only focus on forward and backward (sagittal) plane motion.  Get your hips, trunk, shoulders moving in side-to-side (frontal) and rotational planes of motion as well.  Running is a fairly complex activity biomechanically and will call on mobility in all planes of motion.

Get strong.   Strength training is an essential part of a healthy runners overall training.   Everyone would benefit from a well-rounded, functional strengthening program.  Running is a full-body movement and requires strength across all muscle groups.  Certain considerations should be made in strength programming for a runner.

Get control.  Running is a controlled fall forward with transition from controlled stance on one leg to the other.  At no point in the running gait cycle are you on two legs.  Therefore, it stands to reason that a runner should have good stability and neuromuscular control on each leg individually.

If you have any questions or want advice on how to properly start or maintain a running program, call Omaha Physical Therapy Institute today!  Our physical therapists are ready to help you achieve your goals!

Matthew Vetter, PT, DPT, CSCS
Certified Running Technique Specialist through the POSE Method

 

 

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