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Exercise & Fitness
Running injury? Maybe you’re doing it all wrong
- By Robert H. Shmerling, MD, Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
When you workout, your muscles naturally get tired. One way to help speed up muscle recovery is to munch on ginger root. Studies have shown people who eat ginger experience a significant reduction in muscle pain, allowing people to get back to the gym in a shorter amount of time. More workouts lead to increased lean muscle mass, which generally equates to natural weight loss as you burn calories around the clock.
Good tips here and an interesting study that supports my experience.
As a former college and 4 time Ironman, I found there are two kinds of runners: 1. Those who are injured, and 2. Those who will be injured. I have had about every running injury in the book, mostly from overtraining.
To reduce my running injuries in my mid fifties, I switched to a four minute short burst running routine on a steep hill or treadmill. I try to get to an 80-90% heart rate in that that time. Studies show this is equivalent to a one hour jog.
As to form, I moved my foot strike farther forward to use the natural shock absorbing properties of the foot. It’s a built in spring system.
Your very first recommendation is “Stretch well before, after and, if possible, during exercise.”
But Harvard’s own “Stretching” Health Report cautions against doing static stretches before a run…and say that it’s best to do static stretches after a run or even at another time entirely.
Would be good to be consistent!!! Or at least, clear.
I ran Track and Cross Country in younger times, and I still love getting up early in the morning to exercise. I enjoy jogging, dancing, brisk walking, and weight training. I maintain a regular exercise regimen five to seven days per week for sixty minutes, 3600 seconds and I feel absolutely marvelous. I think exercise is the best medicine a person can be prescribed by examining professional Doctors of Medicine. Happy: Lily.
Thank you for the article Dr. Shmerling. For the past 17 years I have been teaching runners to run with a shorter stride and a cadence between 170-180 strides per minute. I have also done my best to teach people to not overstride and heel strike (there have been many studies showing that heel striking creates more impact than midfoot or forefoot landing.) I have also been a big proponent of always increasing any training regimen very slowly to allow the body to adjust to increased workload. In essence, my whole emphasis has been on injury-prevention and energy efficiency through adjusting one’s running technique. Not everyone needs to change how they run… but with a 60-65% injury rate in runners… I’d say that a very high percentage of injured runners could benefit from changing their stride to one that doesn’t cause injuries. If you run in a way that doesn’t hurt your body, there’s no reason why you should get injured.
I have been utilizing your Chi Running and have been injury free for over 7 years! I totally agree with your heel striking theory and feel this small change has made my running more enjoyable and has helped with my injury free journey…. I’m knocking on wood as I type this ?
I do running up hill n then walk the way down about 8 times. This puts less stress over all and makes excellent HIIT
There is so much anecdotal information regarding running ( and walking) technique that it would be fabulous to develop evidence based data on the subject! I realize that this needs to be tailored to different body types, and to help define the hip/knee/ankle issues that dictate specific techniques. Fascinating research. Humans probably developed to run, and this is likely more important than an opposable thumbs, to our success.
I have had a lot of jogging injuries over the years, mostly on my foot. And I’m now 77 years old.
One thing that I found out that works for me is the length of the stride. I used to have a longer stride. Longer strides make for a hard landing and bad for your calf.
Now, I’m making my strides shorter. This has helped me with my injuries. I have not had any injuries for about four years now.
I have run 36,000 miles on my toes, and I would not dream of not having the elevated, cushioned heel for safety’s sake. Not every foot strike is perfect. Without the heel, you’re just asking for a torn Achilles.
I think it is better not to stretch prior to exercise on cold muscles.
I do fine my knees feel better if I land more on my whole foot & lean forward a little. it does make for a softer landing. I’ve been running for 38 yrs because I run on grass or dirt beside the roads. People’s knees get “eaten up” by pavement & sidewalks.
Been running since 1960 on the streets in NYC and it s I believe misinformation when you say the knees get eaten up -this will not occur if you do leg raising exercises at the first sign of knee pain-the quadricep muscle is the shoelace to the cartilage in your knees -if you keep this muscle balanced with the hamstring these muscles will tighten up the cartilage in your knee and they will not be floating like scrambled eggs -and this occurs when people completely ignore learning about the simple anatomy of your knee and legs which never changes-so to sum up the surface can actually make the legs stronger and thinking of muscles in a lady like fashion and dainty treatment will only lead to weaker legs overall.
Like the article. I’m a bear foot runner and when I run in winter with shoes I struggle with knee pain. However it is enough to take off my shoes and the pain is gone, moreover I can run longer distance so there must be a bit of the true in running technique especially the way we land.
I hear very little about ‘race walking’ yet it is a great compromise – especially because it has low impact effects – but is good for cardio vascular and bone health. I have recently completed my 4,600th race walk (about 2.5 miles four times a week) over 25 years. Injuries are essentially non-existent – except for a couple of minor stumbles and abrasions over the years. You should get people to consider it.
I would add take regular walk breaks, before you’re tired. Did wonders for me
Great article Dr. Shmerling!
The American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons’ consumer education website offers supportive tips to help reduce running/jogging injuries (www.foothealthfacts.org).
Be sure to follow us on twitter, as well @FootHealthFacts
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