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Maintaining Your Running Health In The New Year

Date: 
12/31/2016 - 11:49

By Carolyn Mather RN, PhD
Over the years I have recommended many things to keep you healthy and running as often as you want. Recently I have come across the term prehabilitation. Prehabilitation is essentially preventive injury risk assessment and training to prevent the problem before it happens.

Posture, joint alignment, flexibility, muscle control, biomechanics, core stability and movement patterns are all considered. Prehabilitation helps you to: achieve normal static and dynamic posture, correct muscle length imbalance, joint alignment and flexibility, normalize core stability (upper, lower and left vs right) and enhance muscle endurance, strength and power, and boost movement pattern efficiency.

Although this can be done with the help of a physiotherapist I am going to relate how I manage to do my "prehabilitation" and what has worked for nearly 40 years to keep me basically injury free despite doing way too many miles. My first recommendation is to find a well versed massage therapist. Now I can hear the groaning as massage therapy is "expensive." Trust me, this is not an issue. You spend more on shoes, clothes, race entries, travel and electronic gadgets than you will ever spend on massage. Basically I have had two therapists for the past 30 years. They know my body so well that both have been able to spot problems before they curtail my running. I am often amazed that both have been able to find stuff starting to go wrong before it does. Massage can help you with your posture, muscle length imbalance and alignment. It works, but you must find the right therapist and get regular massages. I have gotten one a week for years and it has been worth every dollar. Plus when you experience post workout or race soreness your therapist can iron out the pain.

Secondly I have a stretching and yoga routine which I try to do most days following my run. As we age we tend to lose flexibility, and stretching and yoga assist in keeping you flexible. Find out what works for you. I have a friend who takes yoga several mornings a week and it has aided her running tremendously. Stretch all of your muscle groups gently after every run.

The next thing that really helps is pilates or core strengthening. As we tire, and this usually happens during our runs, your shoulders tend to fall and in a hunched over position, you do not breathe properly. You running efficiency is compromised by less oxygen intake and the process soon becomes a slippery slope. Use a ball and strengthen your core. You can find all variations of core exercises on the internet or you can take classes. A strong core will take your running to a new level. And your posture will improve dramatically.

Plyometrics will also help your muscle endurance, strength, and power and increase your efficiency in running. Start plyometrics slowly and do what works for you. Some of the jumping and bounding may be hard on your knees so take care as you utilize this modality. Again the internet has more plyometrics than you could ever imagine.

Weight training will also help prevent injury by strengthening your muscles so you have more control. You do not need to lift heavy weights but doing arm exercises with weights will assist your movement patterns. Most runners find 30 minutes twice a week is sufficient.

One thing that too many runners ignore is their shoe wear. I once was told that you should rotate your shoes and never put more than four to five hundred miles on a pair of shoes. I know many runners who push the wear time and often suffer the consequences. Monitor your shoe wear as that is one of the main ways you maintain joint alignment and prevent preventable injuries. If any wear pattern appears on the soles you should have a professional at your local running store do a gait analysis to get you in a shoe that works best for you.

Finally my last prehab tip is to be your own, best advocate and listen to your body. I find many runners today are so absorbed in their music or their watch and their splits and time that they are not listening to their bodies. Your body will tell you when you are approaching danger if you listen to your body at all times.

So I hope that I have given you some food for thought for 2017. Try to do some new things to keep you injury free and on the road. Happy running!!

Carolyn Mather, R.N. PhD. lives and runs in north Georgia and is a member of the Atlanta Track Club Elite. She can be reached at carolynmather@tds.net.

This article appeared in the January issue of Running Journal.

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