I am super excited to introduce Guest Blogger Nathan Carlson, from RunningMate. Nathan is a physical therapist that has helped me through multiple running injuries, including my freak out ankle injury shortly before the Boston Marathon. I will be working with Nathan, again, through the summer on performance training. I can’t wait to share our adventures!
Until then Check out this awesome Guest Post from Nathan.
Trying to manage a running related injury can be incredibly frustrating. There is a lot of information out there, both from credible and non-credible sources, on how to manage various injuries. Because of the large amount of information that is available to the public, there are a lot of misconceptions as to why runners get hurt. I’m gonna go over the three most common things I hear runners say when I chat with them about why they got injured.
- My lack of flexibility is causing my injuries
Many runners have been told that tightness in their lower body is leading them to get hurt. For most, this is completely untrue. If you can do day to day tasks without issues, you have enough flexibility run. You only need a little bit of motion, at a few different joints, to be able to run. I did a video a few months back on how much motion you actually need to run.
Because of this, I haven’t told a runner to “stretch” anything in at least three years. If you like to stretch, feel free to. There are a lot of runners that complain of “tight” hip flexors that have normal hip flexor length when assessed. Just because something feels “tight” doesn’t mean it needs to be stretched. If stretching doesn’t make it feel better you probably need to try something else. Sometimes when something feels tight, it actually needs to get stronger.
- My Foot Alignment/Arch Height/Posture is causing my injuries
Every runner that has bought a pair of shoes in the last 30 years has been fit into some type of foot shape/posture category. The original thought was based on the idea that based on the posture of the foot, we would need to prescribe a shoe to either provide more or less support so that arch doesn’t “cave in” and cause overpronation. This is a nice idea in theory, but in practice it doesn’t add up. We have very little evidence to support the idea that we need to prescribe footwear in this manner, or that it will reduce our risk of getting hurt. There a lot of runners that have A LOT of pronation that don’t get hurt. Haile Gebrselassie is a great example. He was a fantastic distance athlete and displayed a lot of “undesirable” mechanics when he ran. His tissue adapted to training and he was able to have a very successful career.
- My heel striking is causing my injuries
When it comes to running form/mechanics, there is a belief out there that running form is consistent no matter where we are running, how fast are pace is, or how tired we are. Running form is much more dynamic then that. When we talk about foot strike, most runners will change how their foot hits the ground depending on how fast they are going. It is not a static variable. If you are running on a trail, you will move different than running on a treadmill. Most runners in the world hit with their heel first when they run and that’s OK. When Dennis Kimetto set the world record in the marathon, he hit the ground with his heel first.
Now that isn’t to say that sometimes we might need to change our foot-strike. When we hit with our heel first, it tends to load more to the hip and knee. When we hit with our forefoot first, it tends to load more to the foot ankle. So…if your knee hurts, it might feel a little better to hit with your forefoot. Vice versa, if your Achilles hurts, it might be better to hit with your heel first. It’s just different ways of loading the body.
So why do most running injuries happen? Training errors.
The human body is pretty awesome. We can run marathons in almost 2 hours and can cover 100 miles in a day. We are adaptable, robust and able to do some awesome things in the world of endurance sports. Our body is really good at being stressed, recovering, and then coming back stronger. That is what happens when we train a race. There is a reason why a lot of training plans will increase for 3-4 weeks and then take a step back for a week. As we move towards race day, we are slowing turning up the dial so we are primed and ready to go the day of whatever our race is.
The adaptability of the body is important to remember when we think about injuries. Small variations in foot shape, flexibility and running mechanics are very, very small variables when we compare them to our overall training plan. Most runners get hurt when they progress mileage, speed, or make a large change in training environment (more hills, more treadmill, etc.) without giving their bodies time to adapt. So what does this mean to you as a runner? PAY ATTENTION. There are definitely days to go out the door and push the pace, but if we do that too much we run into trouble. Make smart decisions as you progression training and race day will go off without a hitch.
Nathan Carlson is the owner of Runningmate Physical Therapy and Performance Coaching, a physical therapy and performance enhancement business focused on the management of runners and other endurance athletes. He can be reached on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/RunningmateKC/, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or in his clinic located inside KC Endurance’s Treadmill studio at 75th and Washington in Waldo.