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Tips For an Injury-Free Run Season





Warmer weather is here and one of our favorite summer activities is getting out for a good run. Whether it’s on the road or on the trails, running is a great way to get outside, improve your health and fitness, and alleviate stress. However, as a physical therapist I often see clients present with running-related injuries once the mileage starts to ramp up. Here are three principles that we utilize with our clients to help keep them out of pain and crushing their weekly runs.


1. Follow the 10% Rule


Most running-related injuries happen from doing do much too soon. This typically happens when we increase mileage or intensity too quickly. The biggest issue here is that we don’t provide the body with adequate periods of recovery between runs.


Due to the high demands on the connective tissue and joints, the body needs gradual exposure to higher training loads to fully recover and adapt. A good rule of thumb when increasing weekly mileage is to limit increases to 10%.


For example, let’s say you are averaging 10 miles of running per week. The following week, aim for a total weekly volume of 11 miles. While it may seem like a small increase, the gradual progression week to week will build to larger volumes while providing ample time to recover.

Keep in mind, this rule isn’t perfect but it’s a good place to start. Ultimately, you still need to listen to how your body is responding.


2. Optimize Your Cadence


Cadence, or the number of steps per minute (spm), is one of the easiest factors to modify to help improve running efficiency. We’ve also found that it’s the easiest way to reduce knee and ankle pain with our clients. You see, as cadence increases, it will automatically reduce stride length and shift towards more of a midfoot strike position. This will reduce strain on the joints and limit the “braking force” experienced with a heel strike position.


So what cadence are we shooting for?


Ideally 160-180 spm is our goal.


How do we increase cadence with our physical therapy clients?

We start by establishing their current cadence. We do this by counting the number of steps taken in 30 seconds and multiplying by 2. From there, we use a metronome app that allows us to adjust the cadence to a desired number. Let’s say a client has a cadence of 140 spm. Just like the 10% rule for volume and intensity, we want to make sure we are gradually progressing cadence as well.


For this individual we would likely set the metronome to 150-160 spm and have them work to match the cadence while running on a treadmill. Once they establish the ability to match the cadence, we would then have them practice this cadence during their weekly runs. They can even use the metronome app for the first 1-2 minutes of the run to establish their cadence before continuing the run. After 1-2 weeks, we would then increase cadence by an additional 10-15 spm and continue the progression until we have reaching between 160-180 spm. Throughout this process, we would monitor for symptoms and modify as needed.


3. Build a Strong Foundation


Strength training is extremely important for anyone looking to avoid injuries with running.


Unfortunately, many runners sacrifice strength training because they either don’t like it or don’t want to get bulky.


However, strength training is really the best way to build what we call “load tolerance” in the muscles, connective tissue, and joints. Without adequate tolerance to loads, you will begin to experience tissue failure leading to the nagging aches and pains.


Put simply, this allows your body to withstand the demands of running without getting beat up.


What are the most important areas to strengthen for runners?

· Lateral glutes

· Quads

· Hamstrings

· Calves


If you are dealing with a running related injury and want to enjoy the spring weather, you deserve to see a physical therapist that not only knows how to rehab injured runners but also shares a passion for running.





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