Category Archives: injury

Controlling Your Pace During Races

The following is an excerpt from The Runner’s Edge, regarding pacing and is with the permission of Human Kinetics.

“While it’s obvious that a speed and distance device can be used for monitoring and controlling your pace during races, you need to use your device somewhat differently in races of different distances, and you must avoid succumbing to the temptation to rely on it too heavily.

First, before you race, try to get a good sense of your device’s specific degree of accuracy. Most devices are inaccurate by a consistent degree in one direction—either too long or too short. Test your device on measured courses whenever possible to determine its pattern. Races themselves afford some of the best opportunities, but be aware that it’s actually normal to run approximately 0.5 percent too far on certified road race courses because these courses are measured by the shortest possible distance a runner could cover in completing it (that is, by running every turn and tangent perfectly), and nobody ever does that.

Pacing During a 5K

If your device model has an option to display the average pace for the current lap or run, set the display in this mode before the race starts. If you’re running a 5K, ignore your watch for the first several hundred yards, when it’s crowded and your main priority is to find a rhythm. Once you have found your rhythm, take a quick glance at your average pace. It almost certainly will not match your target pace for the first mile, but that doesn’t mean you have to actively speed up or slow down. Just absorb the number you see, think about it in relation to how you feel, and let your gut tell you how to adjust.

Sometimes this early quick glance can save the day. When adrenaline gets the better of you and you start way too fast, it gives you the chance to rein in your legs and save your race before it’s too late. If you waited until the first mile split to discover your mistake, it would be too late. On the other hand, if you start way too slowly, the quick glance at your average pace may remind you that, in fact, you are not working as hard as you could be, and you have an opportunity to speed up before you’ve dug too deep a hole to climb out of. But most often that early, quick glance will merely confirm that you’re more or less on pace.

Pacing During a 10K

When running 10K races, do the same early glance at your average pace as soon as you’ve settled into a rhythm and adjust, if necessary. After that point, ignore your device (but pay attention to your mile splits) until the second half of the race, during which you should check the device whenever you find yourself worrying that fatigue is causing you to slip off your goal pace. The benefit of doing this is that it almost always motivates you to run harder, no matter whether the display tells you that you’re right on pace, have fallen a second or two per mile behind pace, or are ahead of pace. The only circumstance in which it’s likely to be demoralizing is when you’re having a bad race and have fallen far behind your target pace. In these circumstances, you’re going to end up demoralized anyway.

Pacing During a Half Marathon

Half marathons are long enough that your mile split times become almost meaningless after you’ve run several miles and brain fatigue has crippled your mathematical faculties. So don’t even bother paying attention to your splits after 10K. Instead, glance at your average pace at each mile mark to check whether you’re still on track toward your goal. As in 10K races, this type of monitoring is likely to keep a fire under you—there’s just something about chasing numbers that makes us work harder!

Pacing During a Marathon

In the marathon, all measures taken to control your pacing with objective data go out the window after the halfway mark. You have to run by feel. But properly controlling your pace with objective data in the first half is critical to setting yourself up for success in the second half. The marathon distance is just too long for your anticipatory regulation mechanism to make reliable decisions about how fast you ought to be running in the early miles. Instead, rely on setting an appropriate time goal and target pace and check your speed and distance device as often as necessary to ensure that you stay on this pace through the first half.

While a speed and distance device certainly can help you pace yourself more effectively in races, it is no substitute for your body’s built-in pacing mechanism. While this mechanism is poorly developed in beginning runners, it is highly refined and more reliable than objective pacing controls in experienced runners. If you are ready for a breakthrough race performance, your anticipatory regulation mechanism will tell you so by causing you to feel better than anticipated as you proceed through the miles. It would be a mistake in this situation to trust your pacing plan and your speed and distance device more than your body and resist the urge to run faster. Likewise, on those days when you just don’t have it in a race, you need to heed your body’s message of unexpected discomfort and run slower than planned instead of stubbornly persisting at your target pace only to suffer a disastrous bonk late in the race.”

Avoid the seven deadly sins of running technique

Do you know any runners who have had a running-related injury? The easier question to answer is, do you know any runners who have not had a running injury? According to the authors below, in any given year, up to 70 percent of runners sustain an injury serious enough to stop them from running. [ref]

In triathlon, excluding accidents of course, I think running is the sport that is hardest on your body. Your body takes a lot of pounding during a run. That is why you hear over and over again from the experts things like:
- hard/easy days
- don’t increase more than 10% per week

Elite runners have coaches that analyze their gait and make adjustments. If you’re serious about staying injury-free:
- research it
- read books
- go to a good running store that can video and computer-analyze angles of pronation/supination to fit you in the right shoe
- replace your running shoes often
- if you run every day, have two pairs of shoes and switch off every other day
- practice form running

Avoid the seven deadly sins of running techniqueToward the the first two, I just saw a new book worth checking out. It’s called Running Well. In the following article about the book, reprinted with permission from Human Kinetics, the authors explain some of the ways to avoid running injuries.

According to running expert Sam Murphy, [running] problems are often caused by errors in training and technique and can be avoided. Simple mistakes, including wearing the wrong shoes, increasing mileage too quickly, or not varying sessions enough, are responsible for 60 percent of running injuries.

“By learning the difference between training and straining and honing your technique, you can minimize the risk of injury and the training setbacks it inevitably brings,” Murphy says.

In the upcoming Running Well (Human Kinetics, November 2008), Murphy teams up with physiotherapist Sarah Connors to explain what she calls the seven deadly sins of running technique. To prevent injury, Murphy says runners should avoid these practices:

Overstriding. Trying to make a stride too big puts the muscles in an inefficient lengthened position, causing the foot to land in front of the knee and creating a braking effect. “Overstriding usually happens when you are trying too hard to run faster,” Murphy explains.

Wasteful movement. Runners waste energy by incorporating too much up-and-down movement instead of focusing on forward motion. “A common cause of a bobbing action is lifting the knees too high up in front and pushing off the toes,” Murphy says. A very short stride can also be to blame.

Overpronation. Overpronation results from pushing off on a foot with a collapsed arch. This foot position puts extra stress on the muscles supporting the arch, which in turn pull on their attachments to the inside of the shin bone.

Sitting in the bucket. Also referred to as sitting on the hips, this happens when the pelvis tilts forward and the hips push back. “This posture reduces the power of the hip extensors, stresses the lower back, and shortens your stride,” Murphy says. “This posture is responsible for a lot of runners’ back and hip problems.”

Excessive supination. Oversupination occurs when the foot doesn’t roll in enough and remains on the outside edge. This action reduces the foot’s ability to absorb the shock of impact and increases the risk of stress fractures, especially along the outside edge of the foot and shin.

Poor hip drive. Relying too much on the quads and hip flexors rather than using the hamstrings and gluteals to extend the hips reduces the power and length of the stride. Strengthening glutes and hamstrings can improve running technique.

Hip drop (Trendelenburg gait). A Trendelenburg gait occurs when the pelvis shifts too far from side to side. “As a result of weak adductors and abductors, the hip of the swing leg drops and the hip of the stance leg pops out to the side because the muscles aren’t able to hold the pelvis level,” Murphy explains.

Running technique

Kevin M. Beck has been a runner since 1984 and is currently a senior writer for Running Times magazine.

Beck has served as a distance running coach at various levels and is coached by two-time U.S. Olympic marathoner Pete Pfitzinger. He also helped coordinate a research study on exercise and diabetes at the University of California at San Francisco, where he was a diabetes researcher and exercise technician for the Mount Zion Medical Center.

He has written a book called, “Run Strong“. In part of it he talks about Perfecting Running Form. With permission of Human Kinetics, I quote part of it here.

“As a physical therapist, I am often asked how the body should look while running. There are many biomechanical interpretations of proper running form. Most physical therapists’ stand is that an athlete’s individual flexibility, strength, and joint mobility define his or her form, so there is no one correct answer; however, a runner’s knowledge of what constitutes basic proper form is important.

As detailed in chapter 1, running is broken into phases based on the positioning and movement of the foot:

  • Footstrike. The initial contact between the ground and the foot
  • Midstance. Composed of two subcomponents:
    • Foot-flat. Body completely over the stable foot contacting the ground
    • Heel rise. Beginning of the propulsion forward as the heel begins to leave the ground
  • Toe-off. Final propulsion and last contact between the foot and the ground
  • Swing-through phase. The leg swinging under the body getting into position for the next footstrike

To get a feel for optimal running form, try going through the following movements in slow motion while standing in front of a mirror. Balance on one leg and strike the ground approximately six inches (15 centimeters) in front of the body with the other foot, either at the heel or the midsole. Be sure to flex the knee of the moving leg 10 to 20 degrees and the hip 20 to 25 degrees and lean forward slightly at the trunk. As the body weight completely transfers to this foot, keep the knee bent, letting it cushion the joints at the foot-flat phase. The body continues to move forward, and the hip extends (straightens), the knee extends, and the heel lifts. This is followed by the toe-off phase. As the foot leaves the ground, the thigh swings backward maximally. The direction of the leg changes as the thigh drives forward, with the knee bending in the swing-through phase. Try this with each leg; a few rehearsals should give you a feel for the optimal relative positioning of each part of your body during an actual run.

That takes care of proper lower-body mechanics, but what should the rest of the body do during this movement? The following list describes upper-body movements and how they coordinate with lower-body movements.

  • Maintain an upright body position while relaxing the shoulders and face. Less tension in these areas helps promote more relaxed, free-flowing movement throughout the body as a whole.
  • Hold the sternum high. This allows the chest to expand and increases lung ventilation.
  • Swing the arms from the shoulder joint forward and backward, maintaining a relatively fixed elbow bend at 90 degrees. The shoulder is a pendulum; allowing the arms to passively swing as a result of momentum imparted by gravity rather than actively “flailing” or pumping them minimizes energy wasted through excessive body movements.
  • Synchronize the arms with the legs, mimicking the same rhythm. The arms are used for balance, momentum, and to assist with forward propulsion.
  • Engage the trunk muscles with a slight lean forward to help support the upper body over a moving lower body. Think of a long spine and visualize space between each lumbar vertebra.
  • Rotate the pelvis slightly forward. If you put your hands on your hips, under your fingers is the portion of the iliac crest called the ASIS (anterior superior iliac spine). These points of the hip move slightly forward as the leg swings through and prepares for the footstrike. This hip drive provides propulsion and forward momentum while wasting little energy.
  • Let the knee drive the leg forward with the footstrike about six inches (15 centimeters) in front of the body. The feet stay under the hips and the hips under the trunk, which helps maintain the body’s center of balance.
  • Transfer your body weight evenly from one foot to another, making sure only one foot is on the ground at a time. If both feet are on the ground at the same time, you may not be propelling yourself forward efficiently during the toe-off phase.
  • During toe-off and in the beginning of the swing-through phase, the leg must go past the front-to-back midline and behind the opposite leg. This creates propulsion.

Strong supporting muscles help you maintain efficient running form. When these muscles fatigue, your form deteriorates. Being aware of your running form and consciously trying to maintain form during the latter stages of a run are important means of preventing injuries. Of course, conditioning can help you avoid muscle fatigue and the muscles’ failure to function. However, muscles will fatigue, especially in long events such as the half-marathon and marathon, so it’s important to think about maintaining proper form. Although it is difficult to think of your form for the duration of a long race, reminding yourself of the basics when you start to fatigue centers your focus on the running motion and helps you optimize your performance. The visualization exercise at the end of the chapter emphasizes conscious awareness of proper head-to-toe form. Conditioning and form drills, detailed in chapters 1, 4, 5, and 6 will strengthen your body and enable you to put this visualization process into practice.”

Remember to check out the running videos also.