Here are 10 New Year’s resolutions you can add to your running program, based on the latest scientific research:
- Strengthen Your Hip Muscles.
My research group first introduced the concept of stride-to-stride variability and showed that reduced gluteus medius strength (the muscles on the side of your hip) leads to the knee not being properly controlled due to increased variability in your running pattern. By getting the gluteus medius muscles stronger, your gait pattern is less variable (more predictable) and you reduce your potential for injury.
- Go Shoe Shopping.
Researchers from Luxembourg followed 264 recreational runners over 22 weeks of training. About half of the runners completed 91% of their mileage in the same shoe while the other half completed 58% of their mileage in a “main shoe” and rotated among an average of 3.6 pairs of shoes. Interestingly, the multi-shoe runners had a 39% reduced risk of developing a running injury as compared to the single-shoe runners. Do you own 3.6 pairs of shoes?
- Cross Train.
The same researchers also found that increasing the average distance of your runs, but reducing the number of weekly runs by participating in other recreational sports, reduced your likelihood of injury by 15 to 20%. They concluded that varying the load applied to your musculoskeletal system helps reduce the potential for injury.
- Get a Massage.
Over a 10-week, 10K race program, researchers had one group of runners receive a 30-minute weekly massage while another run group served as controls. 100% of the runners in the massage group completed the 10K race as compared to only 58% of the runners in the control group. These results, and several other research studies, all speak to the benefits of regular massage to prevent injuries while you train. Really, who couldn’t do with a massage every now and then?
- Work on Your Diaphragm.
The diaphragm controls breathing and plays a critical role in core stability. A simple four-week diaphragm-strengthening program has been shown to increase skeletal muscle blood flow and reduce fatigue. To learn more, find a physiotherapist with a special interest in Respiratory Fitness and book an assessment.
- Change Your Stride Rate.
How fast you run is a function of two factors: (1) the length of your stride; and (2) the frequency at which you take those strides—also called stride rate. Multiple studies have shown that a simple 10% increase in stride frequency reduces loading to the hip and knee joints during running, which may help prevent common running-re¬lated injuries.
- Stick to Your Training Schedule.
After decades of research, the one thing every running researcher agrees on is that running too fast, too soon, or at too high of an intensity is likely to push you over the injury thresh¬old. Stick to a defined training schedule to reduce your chances of getting injured.
- Don’t Believe the Hype.
Research has definitely caught up with the barefoot craze. We now know that a forefoot strike pattern, or running in a minimalist shoe, is not more economical. There is also no evidence to support the idea that it reduces your chances of injury compared to a rearfoot strike pattern (which 90 to 95% of runners naturally have). A forefoot strike pattern results in 47.7 extra body weights of loading within the Achilles tendon for each mile run. Be happy with your natural stride and don’t believe the hype about ditching or switching shoes.
- Seek Out Evidence-Based Practitioners.
Our research shows that with proper therapy, you should have significant improvements in your pain and symptoms within the first two weeks of rehab. If you’re injured, you need to find a running specialist who is knowledgeable about the latest research and who uses an evidence-based approach.
- Go Run a Marathon.
I have said over and over: “Anyone can run a marathon!” Evidence for this statement is from decades of personal observations, treating and analyzing over 12,000 runners, and the fact that the number of marathon finishers has more than doubled in the past 25 years. To help achieve this goal… see points 1 through 9. Happy New Year, everyone!
Dr. Reed Ferber is the director of the Running Injury Clinic, a world leader in running-related research and 3D gait analysis technology He is also a Professor in the Faculties of Kinesiology and Nursing at the University of Calgary.