Saturday, February 14, 2009

Training for Runners for Improved Performance & Injury Prevention-Part 1-Introduction


Back in 2006, my fiancee (and now wife) decided to compete in a 1/2 marathon to help her get in better shape for our wedding. She ran in the race, had a terrific time and I learned a lot about her determination. After the wedding, we decided to compete in a 1/2 marathon in 2007 for something that we could do together as a couple. It did help us to make our marriage and friendship stronger and there was nothing like the feeling that I got when we finished the race hand in hand. I never ever thought I (at 220 lbs) would be able to run and finish a 1/2 marathon.

But I paid a price for my achievement. I turned into the typical runner. I felt that I did not need, (nor did not have time for) flexibility, weight training, and alternate forms of training. I only had time to run. As I built up my tolerance for distance I felt great! Never ran more than 2 miles before and now was training with 6-8 miles on long days and felt great. Until one time I was running on the indoor track before the race and I felt it, "crack, crack, crack". My knee started to pop. I tried to ignore it (like most runners do) but then the pain began to enter. I developed IT band syndrome (runners knee). I had pushed myself to far and did not maintain the form and strength I needed to prevent injury and keep my performance. The next 2 months I battled with my knee pain using ultrasound, rehab, and the foam roller. I entered the 1/2 marathon with a knee brace on, taped as well and full of ibuprofen. I made it to mile 10 with no pain, but then I hit my wall and it felt like a knife was stabbing me in my knee with every step of my right foot. I finished the race, almost crying, if it were not for my wife coaching me the rest of the way I would most definitely have quit the race. Don't let this be you.

You might think that this instance will not happen to you. You have run in 1/2 and full marathons before and did not have any problems. All you need to train is to run, run and run some more. I promise you it will catch up to you sometime. Every runner hits their wall at some time and that is when you are risking your overall health by pushing through that pain.

Believe me I have experienced it, but more important I have seen it up close and personal. I met a man who ran all his life and just had a total knee replacement. He told me "if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't. I would find something else to do other than run, because all of what I am going through right now is not worth anything I achieved when I ran." I have seen members of my gym who had to find other forms of exercise to perform cause there was just too much damage to their knees for them to be able to run anymore. And this fact just killed their spirits.

I also see the young ones who come into physical therapy with pain associated with running. Some are training for the 1/2 for the very first time and began having pain and symptoms. Some have trained for years and wonder why now they are having problems when they ran in 3 marathons last year. I tell them that they are the lucky ones. They don't have as much damage now that they would have if they kept it up for another 5-10 years when then the damage is irreversible. If they can correct their imbalances, recognize when their form gets sloppy, and get on a true training schedule then they are on the path to a better lifestyle that includes running.

There are so many runners here in Nashville, TN and I would say that a day does not go by that I am not working with, in some aspect, a runner who is recovering from some type of injury. It has gotten to the point that it inspired me to write this article. I am tired of seeing you runners who only make time to run and nothing else and end up paying a huge price. Think of this, spend a little time and money now to be happy or spend a lot of time and money later being miserable. Your choice.

Why am I doing this? What credentials do I have? What do I know that others don't? I understand muscle imbalance. I understand what poor posture, improper joint mobility, improper joint stability, and improper running mechanics can do to hinder running performance and lead to injury. Most important, I have gotten runners of all ages back to running pain free.

For example: I was very fortunate to rehabilitate a terrific gentleman in physical therapy 3 months ago who was suffering from a ton of damage under his kneecap and arthritis within his knee joint from years of running. Over time that we worked together he developed proper mobility and tissue quality. He understood the idea of improving stability in his joints (especially his hips) and he developed strength and the ability to use his stabilizing muscles at the right times to help protect his knees. He walked out of physical therapy able to walk and run pain free.

Why was he so successful?

  1. He listened to everything I had to say, asked questions, and always told me what he was feeling during the exercises (good communication)

  2. He committed completely to the program and used the time when he had knee pain to develop strength in other aspects of his body (checked his ego at the door)

  3. He had his AHA moment (he found out how to key his muscles to work and make his knee pain disappear)-(very determined)

  4. He did everything I asked him to do. He never tried to do new things or train more or run farther than I asked him to do (he trusted me)

Now on the last day of therapy I instructed him on some important points.

  • Stick with the plan

  • understand that he has irreversible knee damage and that he will have good days and bad days

  • listen to his knee and know when he could run, how far he could run and when he needed to rest

  • understand when he should cross train

  • understand the importance of tissue quality and active rest

  • understand the importance of interval training when running

In the next part I am going to teach all of you my plan for training for your running goals. This could be if you are training for a 5k, 10k, 1/2 or Full Marathon. Overall the important principles still apply. The other chapters will include:

  • necessary equipment for success
  • self assessment
  • mobility & flexibility
  • stability & strength
  • reactive neuromuscular training
  • running mechanics and "sloppy running"
  • interval training
  • cross training
  • running/training schedules
  • putting it all together

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