Written By Janie Fitzgerald, DPT
Whether you are new to running, want to improve your time, or want to just have fun, there are risks to training for a longer race than you are used to and physical therapy is the perfect place to begin your training to avoid an injury!
Who is at risk for injury?
According to a study in the Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine in 2013, novice runners who have injured themselves before, have a BMI >30 kg/m2, aged 45-65 or are running non-competitively have a higher risk of injury1. Unfortunately, most novice runners are included in one of these categories. Although physical therapy cannot address these non-controllable factors (age, previous injury), PT can help with controllable and preventative factors that will make you stronger for training and race day and reduce your risk for injury.
If I’m training for a run, shouldn’t I focus on my mileage so I can actually finish the race?
All too often, novice runners are beginning their running careers without any sort of strength training before or during their training. Imagine jumping on your right leg 5,000 times without having a strong core, hip, knee or ankle. Sounds like it would hurt, right? That is exactly what you are doing when you run 2.5 miles. Strength training is a vital aspect to training for any race. In order to be at your best physical form, you need to have strong hip and core muscles to propel you down the road.
Your physical therapist can give you custom and personalized exercises to perform on your days off from running as well as dynamic warm ups and cool downs for your training days. Running the mileage is important for cardiovascular endurance, but the strength training will get you to the finish line with (hopefully) no pain!
What if I think I have already injured myself?
Common areas of injury for runners include the hip and anterior or front of the knee. If your pain levels when running exceed 3/10, is persistent or sharp, or you have soreness lasting longer than 1-2 days, then you need to contact your physical therapist to address this issue quickly. These pains could be the result of structural problems, running gait mechanics, range of motion limitations or muscle imbalances which can be addressed with physical therapy. Take a break from your runs and any plyometric activities to allow tissues to heal while you schedule your appointment. Avoid generic exercises that friends, family or the internet suggest and see your physical therapist first.
What will my physical therapist evaluate on me if I don’t have pain?
When you come in for an initial evaluation with your physical therapist, he/she will analyze your strength, range of motion, posture, functional movements and patterns as well as your running mechanics. Even the most experienced runner may have a weakness that is limiting them from achieving that specific time goal or mileage goal. If you don’t have pain now but you are beginning to train for a new race, a physical therapist will help set your goals and training schedule to give you best training for injury prevention. Every runner is different so every runner’s exercises and training should be different to avoid injury.
Make an appointment with Center for Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine today and be seen for up to 30 days without a physician referral through Direct Access. Let’s get started with your training!
1) Nielsen RO, Buist I, Parner ET, et al. Predictors of Running-Related Injuries Among 930 Novice Runners: A 1-Year Prospective Follow-up Study. Orthop J Sports Med. 2013;1(1):2325967113487316.
2) American Physical Therapy Association, Move Forward PT. The Physical Therapist’s Guide to Healthy Running. Website: Moveforwardpt.com. http://nationalphysicaltherapy.com/files/pdf/guide-to-running.pdf. Published: 2011. Accessed: 7/17/17.