With winter near and steadily on the way, tis the season for runners to lay a bit back causing their running game to suffer. Instead of allowing this to happen, here is a guide to winter injury-proofing one’s self to get ready for faster racing and higher performance in the spring, summer, and fall.
There are four areas to be addressed for this winter routine:
1 - SPECIFIC INJURY AREAS
An area of weakness that often gets injured or threatens injury for many is our Achilles heel. Most of us have a specific problem area that needs us to focus on strengthening while training.
We must develop a focused injury-proofing plan for that area, without letting up. It is recommended to not only work on these areas when injured or hurting. These areas should be worked on year-round. For many of us, even just as little as two to four exercises as well as stretches and massage techniques can greatly help the areas that are susceptible to become more prone to injury.
2 - FLEXIBILITY/MOBILITY
Runners will often experience stiffness which can be a good and bad thing. As we run, the soft tissue in our legs stiffens, which is indeed a positive training effect. The stiffer tissues help with storing energy, then returning it to help propel us down the road with less effort. Don’t let this be misleading as stiffness can go too far, causing dysfunction that, if not corrected, may lead to injury. As a result, every runner can greatly benefit from a flexibility routine to help keep soft tissues from getting too tight.
Active isolated flexibility is one of the best practices for runners and can be used before and after running, although it is typical for runners to work on flexibility often after running.
While there isn’t enough research on the value of flexibility correlating to the prevention of injury, certainly we have found that when consistently working on flexibility, it can help one feel better while training therefore helping to prevent injuries.
3 - RUNNING FORM
Have you ever seen yourself while running before? You should, we all should. We can all benefit from cleaning up our running form. Better form will not only help prevent injury, but may also help with fatigue in training and racing. Winter, after all, is the perfect time to work on running form. Running drills can easily be done in a small space (a hallway or garage); if you have an indoor workout location (track, gym, etc.), even better.
If the weather does not permit or more so, is dangerous for a run, substitute some running from work. It is quite easy to do, all while working to improve on your performance. It is always surprising how much clean up you can obtain with your arm swing, body position and running motion with just a few weeks of form drills.
4 - STABILITY
At its simplest, running is mainly about holding your core and hips stable while moving your arms and legs. The more stability one’s “trunk” (core and hips) has while your arms and legs are working, the more efficient your running will become.
This stability is important and easy to gain and requires just a few exercises. Find ones that are challenging and enjoyable for you and you’ll be more likely to stick to them. As you get into your injury-proofing routine, you can then advance the exercises with little notice.
Note: It is critically important for runners to strengthen their hips. The more injury prone one is, the more work is needed on hip strengthening and mobility.
If you use these concepts in your training as winter approaches, you'll be a better runner when spring arrives. Let’s get going!