Fatigue and sluggishness after holiday snacking and rich meals along with New Year’s resolutions frequently lends itself to weight gain and subsequent embarcation on a running regimen for much-needed exercise. One of the most common problems seen in patients who run are injuries associated with increasing pace or mileage too quickly. Competitive athletic desire and running are not always a good mix, and many people increase mileage too quickly.
Feeling great after completing the first 5K or being challenged by friends or work colleagues to train for a longer charity race, novice runners commonly push forward to increase mileage and speed in a manner that may ultimately result in injury and bring them to the orthopaedist’s office.
Most running injuries are overuse in nature – either running too much or increasing training too quickly. The body is made to adapt gradually to increased stress. A rapid increase in running mileage inevitably leads to a throbbing and inflamed joint that often requires the runner to stop training for an extended period in an effort to recover.
The 10 percent rule is the best known and time-proven guideline for safely increasing running mileage. If the runner is currently averaging about 10 miles a week, increase by 1 mile each week. In 8-10 weeks, the same runner is running 20 miles.
Slow and steady truly wins the race. Gradually increasing mileage coupled with an appropriate pre and post-run stretching program will allow increases in distance that keep the runner active and healthy and can help avoid possible stress reaction and stress fracture as well.
Remember to stretch correctly. Improper stretching is worse than no stretching at all and can lead to injuries. It is through controlled, relaxed method of stretching that the runner increases flexibility and reduces muscle tension. Stretching after a cool-down period (five minutes of light jogging) at the end of a workout will allow the runner to stretch the muscles just used. Regular stretching will improve range of motion and make working out more enjoyable.
A very common problem associated with overly aggressive increases in mileage is shin splints. Shin splints are a common exercise-related problem. The term “shin splints” refers to pain along the inner edge of the shinbone (tibia). Shin splints (medial tibial stress syndrome) is an inflammation of the muscles, tendons, and bone tissue around the tibia.
Shin splints typically develop after physical activity and are commonly associated with running. Simple measures can relieve the pain of shin splints. Rest, ice, and stretching often help. Taking care not to overdo an exercise routine will help prevent shin splints from coming back.
Running is an excellent form of conditioning and a great vehicle for stress relief as well. Gradually easing into a new running regimen will provide a healthy athletic outlet and prevent painful and bothersome orthopaedic injuries. An example of an appropriate running regimen is running 30 minutes, 4x a week to a heart rate of 60 percent of one’s maximum.