Professional fixes to get over these running road blocks
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Athletes can win race after race and then suddenly get sidelined because of injury. Majority of road blocks in endurance sports are “overuse injuries.” This is due to the same movement over and over, day in and day out for extended periods. These happen when you progress your workouts too quickly, without ample rest and recovery to let your body repair itself and adapt.
Once the pain goes away, gradually increase your running distance and intensity. It’s important to note that this article doesn’t take away the need to consult a doctor or physical therapist. If the pain persists, it’s best to consult a sports medicine doctor.
The most common running injury, also known as the “runner’s knee,” involves sharp pain around the knee cap. It occurs when the knee cap doesn’t align well with the thigh bone. It is normally worse during the start and then gets better in the middle of a run, and aches again after your workout. This is also felt when kneeling or jumping.
The Fix: Reduce distance, intensity and uphill running. Shift to softer running surfaces. Have plenty of rest while taking over-the-counter, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication. When the pain decreases, stretch and strengthen the quadriceps muscles by doing squats, split squats, and step-ups but with a focus on the lowering part of the exercise. Do these with a tempo of four counts going down, and one going up.
A common foot injury that causes pain on the sole of the foot. This is due to inflammation of the plantar fascia, a fibrous tissue that runs from the heel, arch of the foot, and inserts all the way to the balls of the foot.
The Fix: When this is tight, it is worsened by running. Stay away from running but stretch and roll with a stiff ball like the SKLZ Accuball. Best to also check if the shoe you’re using suits your foot type and running style.
Pain at the calf or Achilles tendon (the tendon below the calf). This tendon promotes plantar flexion, which is pointing your toes downward. And this happens during the push-off while running. This can become injured due to repetitive plantar flexion. Pain can also be felt where the tendon meets the heel bone.
The Fix: Similar to treating plantar fasciitis, rest, stretching, and foam rolling the calf muscles may help. Best to also check if the shoe you’re using suits your foot type and running style. A heel wedge may also help.
After resting for a couple of days and the pain decreases, strengthen the calf muscles by doing heel drops. To perform this, use both feet to raise your toes while only the balls of your feet are at the edge of a plyo box or staircase. Lift the unaffected leg, and then slowly lower the heel. Plant, raise, and repeat for 10 to 15 repetitions of 3 sets. Do these with a tempo of four counts going down, and one going up. You can hold a dumbbell to add resistance or hold on to something to help you balance. You can also perform this with the knee in a bent position, which targets the soleus muscle. You may feel some discomfort in your Achilles tendon while performing this exercise. Slowly progress the reps and load of this exercise.
This is when you feel pain on the muscular area of outer side of your shin bone. It occurs due to overpronation and overuse. Running is a higher impact sport than cycling or swimming. It takes more time for your bones and muscles to adapt to your training.
The Fix: If you regularly get shin splints, try getting shoes that can control overpronation. Stretch the muscles of the shin by performing the toe drag stretch. While standing, slightly bend both knees. One of your foot stays firmly on the ground. The foot to be stretched is placed at the back, while the toe is touching the ground. Pull the leg to be stretched forward while the toe is still touching the ground. Once you feel a good stretch that you can tolerate, hold it for 20 to 30 seconds. Repeat with the other foot.
Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS)
Pain is normally felt at the outer part of the knee. The iliotibial band (ITB) is a long band of tissue that originates from the outside of the hip and inserts to the outer part of the knee. While running, the ITB moves in between the front and back of the knee. This can promote irritation and pain as it rubs the outside of the knee.
The Fix: Just like plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis, initially reducing your running mileage and intensity is important. Choose running surfaces that are softer and avoid downhill runs. Replace shoes that are beginning to wear out on the outside of the sole as these can increase strain on the ligaments and tendons surrounding the knee. Over-the-counter pain medication, stretching, and foam rolling the outer thigh muscles may also help.
Performing the clamshell exercise can help activate and strengthen the outer hip muscles. Lie on your unaffected side, with both legs stacked and knees in a 45-degree angle and hips slightly bent as well. Rest your head on your lower arm. Your hips should be stacked, and the top hip shouldn’t move backward when performing this exercise. Engage your core muscles by trying to pull your tummy towards your spine, with the goal of stabilizing your spine and hips. While keeping your top foot from touching the other one, raise the top knee to a height where your top hip doesn’t move backward. Hold this for two to five seconds and then slowly lower your knee. Perform 10 to 15 repetitions for two to three sets.
It’s very important to remember that prevention is better than cure. Prevention always allows our bodies to have ample time to recover and to gradually progress your workouts.