Running has become a very popular form of exercise. It requires no more than a pair of shoes and comes with a multitude of health benefits. Running is associated with improved mood, improved overall health and fitness, and improved joint health. Unfortunately, many associate running with knee arthritis and as being “ hard on the knees”. However, recent research has shown that running does not cause arthritis and can actually help prevent it. Running is good for your joints. So why do up to 80% of runners experience an injury at some point in their running career?
The first factor in avoiding running injuries is proper basic mobility and stability. Without the ability to move properly the body must compensate during the running cycle. These compensations during the high impact activity of running can predispose us to an injury. To avoid injury, some basic movement requirements are:
- The ability to accept load or weight through each leg properly;
- Appropriate ankle dorsiflexion and big toe extension to allow the leg to advance safely over the foot;
- The ability to control the leg in a loaded position such as during a squat or a hop;
- The ability to balance on one leg without wobbling;
- Good mobility in the thoracic spine and hips.
If you are unsure about your basic movement a physical therapist can evaluate, pin point deficits, and develop an exercise program to address any mobility issues or instabilities. There are screens such as the FMS (Functional Movement Screen) or the SFMA (Standardized Functional Movement Assessment) that can help give a baseline of your movement quality.
The movement requirements, while important, are only the first step in preventing injuries. Running technique is equally important, and I’ll explore that more in Part 2: Run Faster Not Harder.