Running Injuries: Preventable!

Good news! Your running injury is not just a random accident, but has in fact happen for a specific reason and also has a preventable cause. Just about every non-contact, sports-related injury can somehow be attributed to improper function of our muscles. With a bit of knowledge of the body and how it works, you will begin to see how things such as shin splints, microfractures, plantar fasciitis, muscle pulls, IT band syndrome, tendonitis, and other running-related injuries can be prevented when the actual cause behind the injury is eliminated.

Let’s quickly go over the basic training philosophy that is more broadly discussed in the earliest runwithpower posts. Our bodies can be compared to a building. You need a specific set of plans to follow in order to build a solid, functional building. The design of the building, or the blueprints, show us the building’s basic structural components. Well, our bodies are extremely complex in terms of the muscles, nerves, and bones that it is made of. Yet, every human has the exact same basic design or layout. Our muscles and bones form the structure of our bodies. Bones themselves are totally dependent on the proper function of muscles to maintain their alignment in the body as well as their articulation, or movement, in joints.

With that being said, it literally takes every muscle in our body doing its job in order for the body to be like the building that is built to the exact specifications of its basic blueprint. The cool thing about the body is, when it is in this state, which we know as the “anatomically correct position,” the body is able to do all the things we do, like crawl, run, jump, lunge, dash, climb, and tumble, without sustaining injury! This is Law #4 as described in our training philosophy.

So then, where do injuries come from? It comes down to our muscles and how they have the ability to change all the time, based on what they are asked to do. If you make a muscle contract or stretch, it will become better at those tasks. These are examples of stimulus. If you are not giving a muscle stimulus on a consistent enough basis though, it will become weaker, tighter, and lose its functional ability. These are Laws #1 and #2. Now, if a muscle loses its functional ability, then the position of the bones or joints it is attached to will be moved out of alignment. Other muscles will have to take over, or “compensate” for the weaker, underused muscle. You can also overtrain a specific muscle or group of muscles, in which case the bones attached to them are pulled out of their natural alignment.

The problem is, when the skeletal system gets these various misalignments, the result is a much less durable frame with which to move. Suddenly, joints begin moving and rubbing in ways they aren’t naturally designed to, and muscles are forced to move in ways they shouldn’t. The skeletal system’s ability to evenly distribute the force of pressure and impact of running in the most efficient manner is compromised. Trainers and coaches will talk about having good posture when you run, not only to increase performance, but to reduce injury. How can you you really achieve good posture if your body does not have the muscular capacity to hold the joints in their correct positions? Yes, you can think about proper body alignment all you like, but true posture is not achieved by thinking about it. It is simply the way your muscles hold your skeleton without your conscious control.

So how is it that we lose the functionality of our muscular system? It predominately comes with the fact that ever since we were little kids, we have spent most of our lives sitting, allowing our muscles to get a whole lot better at sitting and not as good at moving. The number of hours we sit every day adds up to a whole lot of muscular dysfunction around the hip joint, which is the foundation of the body! Humans were made to move, yet all we tend to do these days is sit around. Even when we go to the gym, how common is it to sit at a machine to work out? All this inactivity and lack of proper stimulus will result in a great deal of deviation from the optimal, original design of the body. The end result is, over the miles and miles of running we put in on these misaligned bodies, they wear and tear and eventually break down. Either a chronic pain begins to emerge in an over-stressed ligament or joint, or a sudden, powerful movement pushes our muscles to the point of tearing.

The next post on this subject contains the good news! You can get rid of these injuries altogether by properly training your muscular system!

1 Comments on this post

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  1. Leah said:

    I love this post! I try to explain this to people but I have never even come close to being able to make it sound so simple. Then people will tell me a point that they have and I dont know what to say back so I’ll refer people to this website from now on! Great job!

    (and thanks for helping me procrastinate on doing my Exodus/Deuteronomy homework… :-/ )

    January 27th, 2010 at 5:51 pm

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