Why should runners also strength train?
Driving through the city of Cincinnati on a Saturday morning, it is not uncommon to see people running during all months of the year, despite the weather. These runners are often training for 5k races, half or full marathons, or even triathalons. Some of these runners are competitive, others just like to stay healthy. Research shows that up to 79% of all runners will sustain a running-related injury during any given year. Most of these runners love their sport, and the last thing they want to be told - even when they begin experiencing pain - is that they have to stop running. So the question is, how can runners decrease their risk for injury? And if they do sustain an injury, how can they manage it without completely avoiding running?
It is nearly impossible to completely prevent any type of injury, especially in a sport that consists of repetitive motion (or contact sports - but we’ll save that for another post). What we can do is mitigate the risk for a running injury with proper cross training and with proper progression of a running program. What is the right type of cross training? First and foremost, find cross training that you enjoy and can stick with. It is important to build strength and stability throughout your entire body, so resistance training is very important. Building a stable “core” is important to protect the body from the repetitive stress of running. When we say core, we are talking about your abdominal muscles, lower back, hips, and pelvic floor (more on this to come in future posts, too). It is also important to develop strength in the muscles of the foot and lower leg. The take home point here: a well developed, full body strengthening program can help to mitigate your risk for a running injury.
What is the proper progression of a running program? Research has shown that novice runners should progress their running distance by less than 30% per week over a 2 week period. This means if you are new to running, it is important to increase your running distance slowly in order to decrease your risk for injury. A recent study observed the risk of running related injuries between two training groups, one focusing on running intensity and the other on running volume. This study revealed there was no significant difference in the risk of injury between the two groups. The take home point here: every one is different. The training program that works for a friend may not be the program that works for you. Listen to your body before, during, and after a run. If you aren’t sure if you are progressing at the right pace, seek out a professional who can provide guidance for your running program based on an individualized assessment.
So if you do get an injury, how can you manage that injury and continue to run? The answer is - it depends. It depends on what the injury is, how long you have been experiencing the injury, how it is affecting your running mechanics, how running affects your pain, etc. The best thing to do is get a full movement and gait assessment with a professional who is able to analyze your running mechanics and guide you through a proper rehabilitation program. This professional can guide you on how much running is safe as you work through your injury.
If you’re interested in learning more about cross training or addressing your running related pain, contact us for more information.