3 Steps to Preventing Injury and Boosting Performance (for Runners)

Do you currently have any aches or pains that you feel are made worse by running? If you do this’ll likely clear up why some of those injuries occur and also what you can do to get on top of them.

Running is great for the heart, lungs, general health and mental well-being. Unfortunately it isn’t always so good for our joints. It’s not that running is a bad activity. It’s just that most of us can spend hours each day sat at a desk working on a computer. The sitting, followed by bouts of running (which can be pretty stressful to the body) causes 3 problems:

Problem 1: Knots and Trigger Points

These are a problem because they prevent muscles from contracting and stretching as well as they should, rendering them more prone to injury. Not only that, trigger points stop the muscles from recovering as efficiently as they should, which means they’ll fatigue a lot quicker. Not good when you’re trying to build up your distance.

Problem 2: Short, Tight Muscles

The tight muscles come about from either over use during running or sitting down for long periods of time. When out running the tight muscles pull your body into a buckled position, increasing the wear and tear on your joints.

Problem 3: Weak, Inhibited Muscles

The weakened, overstretched muscles also need addressing. If some muscles aren’t firing up properly other muscles have to overwork to pick up the slack. For example, when the glutes (muscles in the backside) become weak and overstretched (common if you sit a lot during the day) then every time you take a step and extend your hip you have to overuse your hamstrings and lower back to propel you forward.

Because these muscles are not well designed to do this, overtime it leads to chronically tight hamstrings, reoccurring hamstring strains and/or low back pain. All due to the compensations created in the body in response to ‘lazy’ glutes!

 

There Is a Solution!

Here’s the 3 step approach we use to combat the problems associated with running combined with a relatively sedentary lifestyle.

 

Step 1: Foam Roll

Foam Roller Quads

We address the knots first, rolling over each of the tight muscle groups to iron out the knots and break down the adhesions in the muscle fibres. We’d focus on the quads (front of thighs), hamstrings (back of thighs), adductors (inner thigh), glutes (bum) and calves. This’ll improve the quality of the tissue so the muscle can contract and relax properly.

 

Step 2: Static Stretch

Adductor Stretch

Once we’ve undone the knots we need to address the short, tight muscles. And for this we use static stretching. Because we temporarily inhibit, or weaken a muscle by stretching it we only want to stretch the muscles that are tight and pulling the body into a bad position. Runners who also spend a lot of time sat at a desk tend to develop fairly reliable patterns of tightness. The muscles that get tight tend to be the quads, hip flexors, adductors, hamstrings and calves.

 

Step 3: Strengthen

 

Single Leg Hip Extension

The third thing we address is muscle weakness. I mentioned the glutes are a muscle group that are prone to being over stretched and weak. And in addition to that the abdominals and deep core muscles also become weak and inhibited. So we use exercises like the single leg hip extension and the plank to get these muscles fired up.

We’d then follow up with some single leg strength exercises like the single leg squat, single leg RDL, and static lunge to reinforce and integrate the newly activated muscles into fundamental movement patterns that relate to running.

 

Summary

So that’s the 3 step process we use to protect the body from injury and increase performance while running.

  1. Foam Roll to undo the knots
  2. Static stretch (only the tight muscles)
  3. Strengthen the areas that are weak

Hopefully you can add elements of this process to your warm ups before you run, or on a separate day as a training session by itself. Want a comlplete programme to work through? No problem! Click the link to download my 3 step injury prevention and performance programme for runners (opens PDF in a new window)