Spring Is Here, And Running Injuries Are In Full Bloom

by Eric Oliver, PT, Founder

It’s that time of year again.  In Cincinnati, the Heart Mini Marathon opens the running season in mid-March challenging the local winter marathon and half-marathon training groups’ athletes to their first official race of the year’s season.  This race is used as a practice race that helps to propel the runner into the final six weeks of training in which many will see their biggest running distances of the training cycle.  It’s an exciting time because runners get the sense that they are nearing their the big day—Flying Pig day.  In my experience as a physical therapist in Cincinnati, this race has also proved to be a harbinger to the annual ramp-up of pre-Flying Pig injuries.  In light of this year’s rash of injuries coming through our facility, I want to shed some light onto this year’s trainees as they make the last push for the remainder of the training season.  

It’s important to understand the primary causes of these injuries so we can discuss how to remedy them the best we can in the little time you have remaining before the Flying Pig arrives.  Over the many years of observing the increased incidence of injury during this time of the year I have been able to determine a few primary contributors, no matter what the injury.  They are:

Under-training

Under-training over the winter will lead you to be unprepared for the Heart Mini and the following weeks of mileage build-up of your group’s training program.  The earlier months of the training program are critical in not only building strength and aerobic fitness but also in building your body’s resilience to the stresses of running.  If you haven’t been building this base and you try to race the Heart Mini Marathon or attempt to run the progressively longer mileages, your body has a higher risk of breaking down.

Over-training

Over-training can be defined as training outside of your realistic capabilities.  Over-training can take the form of running too many days per week, excessive hill running,  and excessive speed workouts.  You should be following a training program that is commiserate to your skills and your musculoskeletal and neuromuscular profile rather than your experience level.  Just because you have run several marathons or half-marathons doesn’t mean you can train with an advanced training schedule.  If you are weak, lack sufficient joint and tissue mobility, and exhibit deficiencies in your running mechanics you should not be following an advanced training program.  I have treated many seasoned runners who should not be training as intensely as they should because of their body’s inability to handle the stresses.  

Compounded tissue stress from poor running mechanics, muscle weakness, or movement deficiency

Movement faults and inefficiencies performed over a period of time can eventually break down your tissue.  The body’s breaking point is different from person to person, but eventually movement faults will stress the tissue beyond its threshold causing damage (ie. tearing, fracture).  This is to say that the IT band irritation or Achilles pain you’re now feeling may be the result of faulty running mechanics over these last few months of training that has finally pushed your tissue’s stress limit beyond its threshold.  Ensuring you have proper muscle strength in the right areas, motor coordination, and optimal joint and tissue mobility will also limit the amount of stress placed on the body.

Lack of specificity in your training

Specific to the race itself, the Heart Mini Marathon can claim a runner to injury if the individual did not prepare for running this type of course by failing to train on hilly terrain.  This lack of preparedness in training is sure to keep a runner honest and will punish one’s oversight resulting in a slower time, grueling experience, or at worst an injury.

Getting caught up in the moment of the Heart Mini Marathon and racing outside of your normal training pace.

So…are you a runner who is starting to feel the symptoms of these mistakes?  If so, here are some tips that will help you salvage the rest of your training to get you to the starting line as healthy as possible…click here.