Injuries are the biggest hurdles a long distance runner faces. Trouble with the knee cap, Achilles heel, foot arch and shin splints, as well as tight or weak hamstrings are some of the most common running injuries marathoners grapple with. A dull, aching pain inside and around the knee cap, heel or lateral thigh, swelling or instability in the joints, ankle, knee or underside of the foot or a pulling sensation at the quadriceps and hamstrings are all symptoms of an underlying condition.
The time taken for recovery will vary from case to case. Typically, a simple injury with no red flags takes about two weeks. A simple injury with red flags may take about four weeks. A complex injury with no red flags may take about 14 weeks, and a complex injury with red flags about 16 weeks. Some people are slower than average in one phase and faster in another. The important thing to remember is, you can’t put a date for recovery on the calendar, but you can recover and return to safe and healthy running with the right recovery plan.
After cleared by a doctor a runner has to regain running strength from basics. This would be in four stages:
Building stability and mobility to joints and muscles This would involve giving full range of movement , stretching and self-mobilization techniques. Muscle imbalances need to be identified and corrective stretches for tight muscles, myofascial release (a soft tissue therapy for the treatment of skeletal muscle immobility and pain), massages, etc will be required.
Strengthening muscles Strengthening exercises using closed chain movements like jumping, hopping, which will help regain running posture, balance and isometrically strengthen individual muscles.
Building running techniques by adding acceleration drills, plyometrics to improve nervous system response A program of simply running will not suffice to get a runner back on track. He has to go through the balance, endurance and power drills before considering any marathon.
Some of the exercises that can be done to strengthen running and supporting muscles are:
Wall Press – activates the glutes/buttocks in a bent-knee position, similar to running.
How to do it – Stand with your left side near a wall. All of these injuries can be healed completely, provided the runner stays off his feet, or reduces the intensity of his/her runs while experiencing pain and irritation. I’d recommend a routine of rehab exercises to strengthen the strained or injured muscle and supporting musculature as well. Proper rest and icing are required to keep the injury in check. Stretching, strengthening, pressure point massages, etc are ways to prevent relapse of the injury.
Push your knee into the wall and hold, while keeping your body stable (ie, don’t press your shoulder against the wall). Hold for 20 to 30 seconds. Do two or three sets on each side.
Single-Leg Balance on Forefoot – increases leg strength.
How to do it – Balance on one leg on your forefoot (barefoot is ideal), heel off the ground. You should feel the side of your hip (gluteus medius) working. Hold for as long as you can keeping the body tall. When you lose balance, rest, then repeat three more times.
Eccentric Heel Drop – strengthens calves, ankle muscles and Achilles tendons, which allow for a stable landing when running.
How to do it – Stand on one leg on a curb or step with your heel off the edge. Lift up onto your toes, then slowly lower down until your heel is below the step. Start with a set of 10 on each leg. Build to three sets of 15.
Clam Shells – strengthens gluteus medius to improve knee and pelvis stability.
How to do it – Lie on the floor on your side, legs stacked. Bend both knees, keeping legs and feet aligned. Open the knees like a clam shell while keeping your feet together. Do two sets of 30 on each side.
Once you find yourself tackling the above exercises with ease, move on to the next level, doing the moves with a resistance band around your thighs.
Stability Ball Bridge – strengthens and activates the gluteus maximus and the multifidus (small muscles in the back that aid spine stability).
How to do it – Lie on the ground with calves on a stability ball, arms extended out. Lift your hips up off the floor so your body forms a straight line from ankles to shoulders. Hold. Once you can hold comfortably—and without your hips dropping—for 60 seconds, move on to a greater challenge.
Plyometrics or jumping exercises ( jumping in all directions) and bouncy movements, standing jumps, etc will help build the elasticity of the muscle.
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