We’re approaching the season for weekend fun runs, charity 5Ks and multi-stage team relays. But as recreation and competitive runners hit the roads and trails to prepare for upcoming events, Bend physical therapist Tom Pietrowski reminds us that avoiding common early season training mistakes can keep runners healthy and competitive throughout the season.
This is an especially important message considering about 60 to 65 percent of all runners experience an injury during the average year.
“Running injuries are common, especially early in the season when people are training for races by getting back into shape or when adding miles” said Pietrowski, owner of Compass Physical Therapy in Bend. “Plantar fasciitis, Achilles problems, knee pain, and IT band friction syndrome are all common running injuries, often caused by doing too much too soon and by doing so without proper strength, flexibility or form.”
To help keep runners on schedule throughout the spring and summer outdoor season, Pietrowski suggests avoiding the following five running mistakes:
1. Skipping Warm-up and Cooldown: While workout windows can be tight and difficult to secure during a given week, don’t use time constraints as an excuse to avoid properly warming up and cooling down before and after a run, Pietrowski said. Warm-ups can include a combination of walking, light jogging, skipping, high knees and butt kicks which serve to increase heart rate and circulation, loosen up the joints, and increase blood flow to the muscles. For your cooldown, do some light walking and stretching to help reduce the buildup of lactic acid, which can lead to stiffness and muscle cramps.
2. Wearing the Wrong Shoes: How your feet strike the ground will affect muscles and joints throughout your body’s entire kinetic chain, from the feet and ankles, through the knees and hips, and up into your spine and torso. “It’s important to not only wear a good, high-quality shoe,” Pietrowski said, “but also one that matches your foot type.” He recommends not skimping on foot wear and suggests getting guidance from a local running store where staff can help fit you to the best shoe.
3. Not Listening to the Body: As a physical therapist, Pietrowski doesn’t subscribe to a “no pain, no gain” model when running. Sure, you’ll want to push your body hard, Pietrowski said, but if you feel pain or an unnatural level of discomfort or fatigue, stop, assess and seek input or treatment from a physical therapist. He further recommends not going more than 2 weeks with pain before seeking help.
4. Focusing Only on Cardio Fitness: With running, cardio fitness is certainly important. But when it comes to both injury prevention and performance enhancement, flexibility and strength are equally as vital. Stretch daily and during cooldown periods, Pietrowski encourages, and build strength in your feet, calves, knees, hips and core.
5. Forgetting to Rest: It’s good to push yourself, but rest and recovery are essential in avoiding injury, burnout and plateauing before you’ve reached your fullest potential. So always include rest in your long-term training regimen. This doesn’t mean just kicking up your feet and relaxing for a day, according to Pietrowski. “Sometimes, ‘rest’ can simply mean doing light recovery runs or mixing up your training, so you’re not challenging your body the same way every day.”
To learn more about proper training, including personalized running assessments and the development of balanced training that can enhance your running performance and ensure optimal injury prevention, contact the physical therapy team at Compass Physical Therapy in Bend.