It is running season in NYC!
Last month, 16th Street‘s Laura Muzzatti PT, DPT and Kellen Scantlebury PT, DPT, CSCS debuted their fun and informative running talk: “Running For Life: How to Keep Doing What You Love, Injury Free!” at Google’s GFIT gym!
Whether you’re a running beginner or an avid runner training for a marathon, Laura and Kellen’s tips will help keep you running safely, happily, and injury-free!
(Editor’s note: I’ve used these tips myself and have found that the shin splints that plagued me are now gone! In July I ran a total of 47.4 miles, which is unheard of for this desk jockey!)
1. Land in the middle.
While the debate’s still out about what kind of running shoes to wear, Laura and Kellen (and physics) are pretty clear on where your foot you should land when you run: the middle. A mid-foot strike is safer in the long run (see what we did there?) than a heel strike because heel strikes break up your forward momentum. Each time you land on your heel, you are essentially slamming the brakes on your stride, and depending on how fast or powerfully you’re running, the force on your heel can be tremendous. It’s a nifty (albeit injury-inducing) thing called the “impact transient.” According to a Harvard study on foot-striking patterns, “this is equivalent to someone hitting you on the heel with a hammer using 1.5 to as much as 3 times your body weight. These impacts add up, since you strike the ground almost 1000 times per mile!”
Here’s what the forces on your foot look like when you land on your heel:
Here’s what the forces on your foot look like when you land mid or fore-foot:
As you can see the impact transient (or force/braking action) on the heel is absent when you’re landing in the middle or the front of your foot. Running with a mid-foot strike will help you prevent injuries over time!
2. Shorten your stride.
To promote landing on your mid-foot, take shorter strides. We all want to run with long, graceful strides, however taking longer strides than are appropriate for your body’s dimensions (or over-striding) will promote a heel-strike and will result in injuries over time. Experiment and find the a comfortable stride for you that helps you naturally land on your mid-foot. Once you do, you’ll likely experience less pain in your shins and knees simply by making this small change.
3. Pay attention to your cadence.
Finding the right cadence, or how many steps you take per minute while running, will also help your running performance and help you prevent injury. The ideal cadence for runners (regardless of stride length) is about 180 steps per minute. You can train yourself up to 180 steps by using a metronome app, which helps you time your steps. A fun and not so clinical way to improve your cadence is to run to a song that matches the cadence you’re trying to achieve. Kellen loves running to “Timber.”
4. When it comes to training, gradually increase intensity.
Increase the number of your shorter runs before you begin increasing the mileage of each run. This will help to condition your body and help you get fit to run! If you’re training for a race and want to train up your mileage, increase your total weekly mileage by 10-15% per week to prevent overload.
5. Strengthen your core to prevent injury and increase performance.
Kellen recommends adding strength training two times a week to your running routine. His strength exercises of choice for runners are: Plank, side planks, dead lifts, clams, squats, and band walks! For pictures and instructions on how to perform these exercises check out the “Running For Life” presentation on slideshare, and of course, consult your friendly neighborhood SPEAR Physical Therapist!