With less than 2 weeks before the race, here is blog 4 of 5 to help you prepare!
1. Strengthen your hip abductors.
Our hip abductors can be one of the weakest muscles in our body simply because it is not often intentionally strengthened. I have seen and tested enough runners to know that the act of running itself is not sufficient to strengthen these muscles. When skating, hockey players push off at a diagonal, football players run in different directions; however, runners move generally in only one plane: forward. Since runners generally dislike strength training and working out in gyms (which is why we are runners – we love being outdoors), a runner’s hip abductors are often neglected. For runners, weak hip abductors can cause a whole host of problems from back pain to knee pain to shin splints to plantar fascia pain. This is one group of muscles which runners cannot afford to neglect.
2. Run quietly or strike softly
There is a lot of discussion in the running and research world regarding foot strike patterns. Generally speaking, there are advantages and disadvantages to all 3 (fore, mid and heel) and a runner would do well to be adept at all 3 especially when trail running or as a strategy to alter impact forces when feeling tight or fatigued during a race or long run. It is possible for runners to learn to run quietly or to land softly and the advantages of doing so far outweigh a hard foot strike. Regardless of the types of shoes or strike pattern you choose, learn to run softly. Running barefoot is a good way to train yourself to do so.
3. Do not over-stride!
Although there is no definitive consensus on what over-striding entails, it is generally agreed that there is no advantage to striking the ground ahead of your knees for a prolonged period of time. Reasons include a greater vertical displacement (up and down bobbing motion), increased impact reaction forces on your joints, and poorer running economy. Strategies to reduce over-striding include increasing your step rate (cadence) or simply shortening your stride and to land softly. During gait analysis, over-striders often revert to a much better gait whenever I have them running barefoot. Runners are then encouraged to mimic a barefoot stride and cadence when running in their shoes. In this photo, in the first frame, you can see my heel strikes way ahead of my knees. Without my shoes, my heel actually strikes behind my knees.
4. Strength train your whole body
Not just your hips and lower body but your upper body as well. The benefits of strength training for runners is overwhelmingly positive, not just for injury prevention but for running performance. If runners cannot tolerate being in a gym or do not have access, there are a plethora of effective exercises that one can perform right in your living room or backyard. A gym membership though helpful, is not necessary.
5. Recover well
Sleep, foam rolling, nutrition, easy training days, cross training are all ways to help runners recover. Runners generally invest a lot of time, energy, resources and thought into training but very little intentionality is built into recovery. A well recovered athlete is a consistent and productive athlete.
6. Prevent problems before they happen
Rarely do we ever see patients seeking advice to prevent injuries. Usually, we see patients 5 days before an all-important race with a raging tendonitis seeking a cure that does not exist. Runners would do well to seek the advice of a physiotherapist with expertise in running injuries months before an important race or before starting a new running program to discuss their goals and to receive a full physical assessment and a personalized conditioning, performance and injury prevention program. The biggest risk factor for a future injury is an unresolved past injury. Take care of small problems early so that they do not morph into bigger ones.
7. Enjoy running
Some people run because they feel they have to for various reasons, with weight loss by far, being one of them. However, if you do not enjoy running, then don’t do it. Life is too short to invest time, money and energy into an exercise you do not enjoy. If you do not enjoy it, you will not continue with it. Runners run because it invigorates them. Find activities among the myriads of options available that challenges your cardiovascular system for at least 150 minutes a week. If you are having fun, it won’t feel like exercise at all.
Submitted by Albert and Karen Chan