It is well-known that long-distance running is a great way to improve your cardiovascular fitness. Luckily, there is a huge international running community which provides runners with access to many services including training advice, group training opportunities, and an incredible diversity of running events that are available year-round ranging from 5 km “fun runs” to large marathons. Perhaps the greatest attribute of the running as an activity is the fact that most running events cater to all ability levels ranging from elite athletes competing for prize money, to recreational runners who enjoy the comradery and challenge that these events offer. If you are looking to start running, you can find a beginner’s running programs online in popular websites such as “Couch to Five K” (i.e. http://www.c25k.com).
The benefits of running as an activity far outweigh any real or perceived hazards, but it is important for runners to understand that running is a repetitive, high-impact exercise that produces significant stresses on the bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments – – not only of the legs and feet but also the back, hips and shoulders. Thus, runners are prone to nagging injuries which means that they often find themselves at our clinic seeking treatment. Common running injuries include Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, runner’s knee, shin splints and stress fractures. It usually takes a long time to develop these injuries and they often take an equally long time to fully resolve. Although treatment can greatly speed and enhance recovery from all these different types of injuries, the best strategy is really to prevent these injuries from occurring in the first place. Since running injuries are common there is a plethora of training advice available on-line, in running magazines and in books on the shelves of your local library. In terms of prevention of running injuries, however, one of the lesser-known principles that can help to prevent chronic injuries from developing is the importance of building a strong core. The key core muscles of the human body are located in lower back, the abdomen, and the hips. These muscles essentially connect the upper and lower halves of our body and are the root or anchor on which movements above and below the core are based and controlled. Think of your core as the foundation of the “house” you are building when you design your training program. If the foundation of the structure is weak and fails, the quality of the rest of the construction is irrelevant, and the building will ultimately collapse. Many running injuries can be linked to weakness higher in the core muscles, causing faulty movement patterns of the knees, ankles and feet that will often lead to injury when performed repeatedly. Studies have also shown that core training can improve your running efficiency, and that weakness or imbalance of core muscles can result in the early onset of fatigue and decreased endurance.
Many health professionals including physical therapists are trained to assess core strength and stability in runners. Once core strength and biomechanics have been carefully assessed, runners can learn to incorporate specific core-training exercises as part of their pre-run warm-up or as part of their cross-training regimen. If you want to optimize your training program in a way that will improve your running efficiency and reduce the prospect of injuries, book an assessment with one of our physiotherapists today.
References Rivera CE. Core and lumbopelvic stabilization in runners. Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics of North America. 2016;27(1):319-337.