It never fails – like clockwork – people start asking more questions about running every spring through summer. Seems like it is a natural trait many of us have engrained in us whether we like to run or not.
Whether it is preparing for upcoming racing cycles or maintaining your speed for military or FBI fitness tests, people are running. If you have run before, you will understand the many issues that occur when you run. Some of these issues arise for longer distance race runners, but often if you are a non-runner having to pass fitness tests, the same overuse injuries can occur. This is true even if you are only training for a 1.5 mile timed run for the Navy. Below is a series of issues that runners face every year, along with links or advice to help with whatever running goals you may have:
So, YOU MIGHT BE A RUNNER IF….
- You know what Plantar Faciitis (PF) is. Running injuries of the foot are common to new and veteran runners. Usually, the cause is improper foot wear or foot strike. Many get PF if they run in running shoes even with great support, but the rest of the day they wear dress shoes or work shoes with no support. If you cannot walk on your heal in the morning when first out of bed – you may have Plantar Faciitis.
- You have had shin splints, calve muscle tightness, or Achilles pain. Lower extremity injuries are very common mainly to those new to running or those who ramp up their miles way too fast. Consider a steady long progression if long distance running is your thing. It may take months to build up to 4-5 miles of distance. Often, many are guilty of jumping right into a 5 mile run after several months off and they wonder why their legs hurt from the knees down. Progressive running programs are the ONLY way to build up to long distance. Or opt to keep it short and do sprints / faster paced short runs.
- You have "pulled a hammy" or know what ITB and PFS stand for. Running can be painful, even when you do everything correct. Sprinters, or "those who try to sprint," will inevitably pull a hamstring muscle — usually at the top of the muscle tendon connection — when running faster than normal. If you are over the age of 30, this injury can take several months before feeling 100% again. Knee pain is also typical. It is so typical that there are Runner's Knee, Patella Tendonitis, and Illio-Tibial Band Syndrome, to name a few of the running pains that can occur. The foam roller has saved me with these ailments personally, and helped alleviate pain and tightness enough to not stop running (but reduce it and baby the joints, muscles, and tendons with mobility exercises). I have found treading water, with no hands but using a variety of kicks, works miracles for hip and leg pain and increasing mobility.
- Your body yells at you for the first mile but you are golden thereafter. Especially as we age and run, you will find that the first mile or so is painful and your body is in pain. You often have to overcome the brain saying, "What are you doing? STOP THIS!" Give yourself a good 5-10 minutes of light running followed by a light stretch and the running pain should be comparably non-existent. Try a few minutes on the bike or elliptical, add in dynamic stretches, and then start running and that initial mile pain will not be there. In a nutshell – WARMUP.
- You have tried out different running styles to find out what worked best for you. From POSE, CHI, Evolution, Barefoot Running, to mid-foot strike and others. Everyone has a way to run. My recommendation is to find what works best for you and go with it. Experimenting with other forms of running always injured me in some way (ITB, Calves, Knee, Shins, feet). This is my Evolution of Running.
- You have a certain level of mental toughness. There is nothing quite like running – especially when you do not want to — that builds mental toughness. Being a disciplined runner and getting it done daily is the very habit that will help you get through those tough tests — military or personal. You are likely competitive by nature and do not like being last in anything. Running is a mental test much more than a physical test. If you are a runner, you know that.
- If you like your runs long and your shorts short! We call them Silkies, Ranger Panties, or Daisy Dukes of Freedom in the military. If you run in the military, you will likely run in shorter shorts than are currently stylish. Or if you grew up in the 80's you just never got out of style!
- You have no posterior chain development or mobility / flexibility. The posterior chain muscles are the muscles of your back side: Lower back, Glutes, Hamstrings, Calves. Often these muscles are used by runners but not exercised in full range of motion strengthening programs. Squats, lunges, box jumps, dead lifts, and sled pushes are some of exercises that strengthen these muscles, help stabilize hip, knee, and ankle function, and will actually make you faster when you are on a running cycle again. Make sure you have a lifting cycle of these muscles during your shorter running / no running cycle. Do not forget mobility and flexibility — not just for running, but for being a healthy human. Focus daily (10 minutes a day) on both flexibility and mobility time.
- And finally…You Might Be a Runner, IF you cannot bench press your body weight. Face it, guys who run at the front of the pack are typically not the guys you see under a pullup bar or on a bench press. I am not knocking the athletic choices of the perfect specimen of a runner, but if you want an off season goal, work to do 15-20 pullups and bench press your body weight. Will it affect your running? Maybe a little, but the human body can do both strength and endurance well at the same time. You may not be world class in either, but you can be above average in both with some periodization training.