Make Running Injuries a Thing of the Past

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It’s all in the Technique

Running injuries are not inevitable, as so many people believe them to be. The idea that running causes injury is a myth that we want to put to sleep – forever.

Runner’s knee, shin splints, IT band syndrome, plantar fasciitis – all the dreaded side-liners that put so many runners off their stride are, in most cases, preventable. Just as in everyday living, accidents can happen, and injuries can happen as well. But just as a good, cautious driver has fewer accidents, someone who is using good running technique, will have fewer injuries. When you are aware of your own body’s limits, listen to your body, and watch for signs that something is not in line, you will have fewer injuries, and potentially none at all.

When people find out that Danny is a running instructor, he inevitably hears the story of a once-upon-a-time runner who “had” to stop because they were getting older and getting injured. What people call Runner’s Knee is the number one reason why people quit their once-loved sport. Shin splints are another frequent culprit. Perhaps even more often, we hear about how people have a secret desire to run, but are afraid of the potential for injury.

We’ve met lots of 40-60 year-olds who think it’s too late to start running. It’s a common question, “Aren’t I too old to start running? Isn’t it too dangerous for someone my age?” Our answer, in most cases is, “No, you’re not too old and running is NOT dangerous, if you run correctly. ChiRunning teaches you how.”

OK, there are golf lessons, tennis lessons, lessons to make more money and lessons to have better sex. Well, guess what? Taking lessons to do something well is not only the best way to get good at it, it’s also the best way to learn to do something SAFELY and enjoy it more.

The same is true for running. Whether you’re just a regular jogger, getting out there for exercise, a youngster who likes to burn off some steam, or one of us older folks who runs to keep fit and enjoy life, running is more enjoyable, and safer if you know what you’re doing. And yes, even old dogs can learn new tricks. We can’t tell you how many letters we get from people telling us that making one or two simple changes has had a profound effect on their running. Now, one or two simple changes in your running form won’t prevent injury for a lifetime for most people, but regular, committed practice of ChiRunning can.

Top Ten Running Tips to Prevent Injury

  1. Listen to your body and pay attention to pain
  2. When in pain, make a change in your running form to correct the cause
  3. Improve and perfect your posture
  4. Keep your foot strike under, or behind, your knee
  5. Upgrade your running program gradually
  6. Land on your mid-foot, not on the heel of your foot
  7. Start off every run slowly to warm up
  8. Maintain a shorter stride at the beginning of your runs
  9. Don’t wear old running shoes
  10. Deep slow stretches after your run, not short bouncy ones

Lets fill these out a bit.

1. “Listen to your body,” means just that – LISTEN. I call it Body Sensing. Most people don’t listen to their bodies because most of the ad campaigns of drug companies are telling you NOT to. “Don’t pay attention to a gassy, horrible stomach from eating too much, just drink our disgusting pink stuff.” “Headache? Why not pop our pill (rather than get away from your computer and get some fresh air and put us out of business).” “Stabbing knee pain during your marathon?? Take these pills and go see your surgeon on Monday.” ChiRunning is at the opposite end of this spectrum. Get to know every nuance of your body. Pay attention to every detail. Learn the different voices of pain, just as a mother can tell whether her child’s cry is of hunger, anger or sleepiness. If the pain you feel is other than productive discomfort, go to step number 2.

2. If you’re in pain when running then learn what you’re doing wrong and make a correction. That’s right. If you’re in pain you can almost always do something about it. If your hips are aching, you most likely need to level your pelvis and engage your core muscles. If you’re knee hurts, it could be several things, but find out and make a change. You might be over striding or landing in front of you center of gravity or pronating. All these things can be adjusted and you can alleviate the pain and prevent long term injury.

3. OK, good posture is everything in T’ai Chi – and in all movement as far as I can tell. When your posture is aligned, all movement has a better chance of being correct. Good alignment is the foundation for efficient movement and promotes a healthy spine. Your chi moves up and down your spine. If you’re crooked, the flow of energy is inhibited and your movement will not be fluid. If you’re long, strong and tall (even if you’re short) your movement can flow out of that straight pipe. Your posture effects your breathing, your movement, your digestion. Perfecting your posture is fundamental to a being pain-free and injury-free runner. Lesson 1 in the DVD

4. In ChiRunning you lean slightly from your ankles so that your center is always in front of your foot strike. If your foot hits the ground in front of your knee, you’re putting on the brakes and really pounding every joint from your ankles on up. Plantar fasciitis, shin splints, knee pain, hip pain, and lower back pain can originate from the pounding that occurs when your foot strikes in front of your knees. Let your feet swing out the back while your upright posture leans slightly forward over your heals, and let gravity, not your legs, pull you forward.

5. Life may be short, but there is always time to accomplish what’s most important. When you’re learning something new, upgrading your running schedule or adding speed or distance, it is always wise to follow the principle of Gradual Progress. If you try to do too much too soon, you’re writing a recipe for injury!! If your longest run is five miles, don’t try to run a marathon in three months… eight months is more like it. When you’re learning ChiRunning, don’t expect to perfect it in the first month. Pushing and forcing your way to a goal is a way to get hurt. Set reasonable goals and take your time. Savor your experience and enjoy the process. You’ll run for the rest of your life if you take your time now.

6. Land on your mid-foot, not on your heels. Every time your foot meets the ground, you should be in a one-legged posture stance with your whole foot in contact with the ground, supporting your posture line. This will allow your structure to support your body weight with each foot strike. If you land heel first, you could end up with bad knees, plantar fasciitis or sore quads. If you run on the balls of your feet you’re considered a toe runner. This will put an incredible strain on your lower legs because they are having to support your entire body weight with each stride. They are not designed for this amount of workload… especially during long distance running. Having a mid-foot strike allows the lower leg to rest during all phases of your stride and you’ll never have shin splints again… period.

7. Start every run slowly and set up your best running form during the first miles. Then, let speed work it’s way into your runs as you warm-up, loosen, and relax your body. Take your time getting started. Like a book, let your run unfold and let your body speak to you before you ask it to go fast. When starting a run, listen to where you are holding tension. Check in to see if your pelvis is level and your core is engaged fully. Keep your stride short and crisp, and get your heart going without stressing out the joints, muscles and ligaments. Many injuries happen when you go out of the gate too fast, so let gravity take you for a ride by increasing your lean slightly. Then, gracefully let your stride increase along with your speed. You won’t get injured this way, and you’ll be amazed at what happens.

8. Most people start out running with too long of a stride. I commonly see people running slowly with a stride length that I use only with my highest speeds. Lots of things can go wrong with a long, lumbering stride. You’ll tend to reach forward with your legs which creates a heavy heel strike and a lot of impact. You’ll waste energy by spending too much time with contact with the ground and aggravate your lower legs with shin splints and plantar fasciitis. You could also end up with very sore quads at the end of every run. Shorten your stride when going slowly.

9. Old running shoes are the worst torture you can put your feet through.  Shoes work great when they’re newere, but not old ones. The mid-sole gets compacted, the shoe loses flexibility, and injury is often the result. Find a good flexible shoe (see page 185 in the ChiRunning book for more details) and get a new pair about every 500 miles. Shoes are very important, so invest your time and money wisely, and find a shoe that works best for you.

10. I don’t believe in stretching before runs. Instead, I highly suggest the ChiRunning Loosening Exercises before you run and stretching afterwards. The post run stretches, however, need to have some quality to then. Think yoga. Short, bouncy stretches are not only ineffective, they can cause injury. You can move and adjust within that stretch by doing slight adjustments, but stretching is the perfect time to practice your Body Sensing skills. Don’t push your stretch too far, but take your time and relax into a deep place of flexibility. Listen to what your muscles are telling you after your run. If you’re calves are tight, you may be using them too much on the run. If your shoulders are now moving more easily, the your run did the job of loosening you up.

These are just a few of things you can do to help put to sleep the myth that running causes injury. For everything you need to know about how to run injury-free for the rest of your life, get your copy of the ChiRunning book and DVD.

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