You may have noticed that I’ve been focusing quite a bit lately on injury prevention; that’s because I’m getting older and aches and pains seem to be much more prevalent. Admittedly, I’ve never been much of a stickler for post-run stretching, and nor have I ever consistently committed to a proper warm-up and/or run-specific strength routine, but I think these things are going to become necessary if I wish to continue running.
With so many opinions out there on the “best” methods of injury prevention, I figured I’d start with techniques that appear to be working well for others. That’s where Physiotherapist Brad Beer comes in; in his Best Selling book You Can Run Pain Free, he boasts of impressive testimonies from both recreational and professional runners who claim his teachings and recommendations have led to faster and pain-free running.
Beer, who incidentally is also an accomplished triathlete and runner, advocates the following 5-step-guide:
1.Understand your running body
There are, according to Beer, three types of running bodies, at least in terms of genetic mobility:
- Floppys – these are the runners who tend to have a lot of elasticity around their joints, and hence a much wider range of motion than the average person. When they run however, the increased movement in and around their joints may create greater instability and therefore a higher risk of injury.
- Stiffys – no need to tell you who the stiffys are; you’ll know if you are one! Beer suggests that stiffys spend more time stretching than strengthening. Some strength exercises are obviously important, but the greater focus should be on regular stretching.
- Flippys – and then there are the runners who are neither too floppy nor too stiff. You’ll need to read the book to see what Beer says about this group (he didn’t spend much time addressing them in his podcast interview).
Once you understand your running body, says Beer, you’ll better understand how to maximize your time and focus on the specific exercises and preventative measures best suited for you.
2. Run with great technique
Beer believes that running with great form and technique is a learned skill, and one that most runners are unaware of. It’s not until a runner actually sees him or herself running – on video, for example – that a more realistic perception of their running form is realized. The first step then, is to obviously start with a video analysis.
A video analysis can reveal things like body posture while running, foot placement when landing, as well as cadence (number of times your foot strikes the ground per minute). These are all very important since running places such a huge load on the lower limbs. Take an hour-long run for example; at approximately 90 steps per minute per foot, that’s 5400 single leg hops!
The main things to keep in mind when attempting to run with great technique, are the following:
- Maintain a slightly forward lean; sounds obvious but a lot of runners tend to lean backwards, as in the image below. A backward lean is typically seen in runners who over-stride and end up with their foot landing in front of their body. The problem with over-striding is that it places the body in a position that goes against gravity, thereby slowing the runner down. Worse still, it creates a foot-strike with braking impact that over time can lead to injury (less than 90 steps per minute per foot is over-striding, so count your foot-strikes the next time you go out to run).
- Project body upwards and look straight ahead versus down at the ground (I made a conscious effort to practice this on my run yesterday and was surprised at how difficult it actually was).
- Try to aim for a mid-foot landing; the best way to achieve a mid-to-forefoot landing is to get your cadence right, i.e. 90 steps per minute (you can read Brad’s explanation here)
3. Run in the best shoes for you!
It’s not really possible to identify which shoes are best for you without first establishing your body type and how your running technique is; do these things first and then seek advice from a shoe specialist.
4. Importance of hip stability
Hip stability has much to do with core stability and ensuring that all the muscles and rotators around the hips are nice and strong. Unfortunately, that is not the case with many runners, and hip instability is one of the most common contributing factors to running injuries. As runners bounce from side to side and eventually become fatigued, their pelvis collapses, creating an adverse effect down the entire length of the lower limbs.
The fire hydrant is a great starting point for building hip strength and stability; aim for 3 sets of 12 repetitions on each leg, and progress to 36 repetitions as competency is achieved.
5. Power of rest
Running tends to attract A-Type personalities, which means that there are lots of runners out there with “run-more-do-more” mentalities. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to work hard to achieve goals, but when rest is sacrificed there’s a greater risk of injury or illness occurring. The best way to reduce that risk is to follow training programs that include deliberate and planned recovery workouts between hard sessions, and if necessary, days of complete rest.
If you practice all five of these preventative measures, and apply the same level of dedication to them as you do to your running, Beer believes you will be able to enjoy pain-free and faster running.
To get your copy of Brad Beer’s book and learn more about his 5-step method, visit the Amazon store here.