Be Pro- active and prevent injury.
Image: Physicalliving.com from article: "Building Blocks of Becoming a Strong Resilient Runner". Click here for article.
Melanie's Tips for runners and walkers to lower your injury risk
Over the years of my clinical experience as a physiotherapist I have seen many running injuries and have come up with "maintenance exercises" to try and reduce the number of running injuries. The same can be applied to walking.
Exercise is very beneficial in many ways and disrupting the routine with an injury doesn't help.
So, prevention is always best. Follow these 5 easy exercises regularly up to 3 times per week to maintain your body for walking and running.
The muscles that take a battering during walking and running are absolutely your calves! Try this stretch by standing on the ball of your foot on the edge of a step with your heel hanging off the back of the step. Slowly lower your heels while holding onto the railing and hold here for 1 minute. Repeat with your knee bent to stretch the smaller deeper calf muscles. This can be done on both legs at the same time or one at a time. Remember to align your knee over your second toe as you stretch.
Nerve (neural) structures within muscle can also become tight and may not release with a stretch. Sitting on the floor with your leg bent out on front of you. Using cream on your thumbs push both thumbs into the middle of the upper calf and run them down in a straight line towards the ankle. Use as much pressure as you can tolerate. Try 15 times. I would not advise to do this one immediately prior to running. Repeat on the other leg.
The ilio-tibial band (ITB) is quite difficult to stretch. It is a muscle that runs from the outside pelvis to your outer knee, crossing the hip. It is typically tight in those that walk and run a lot. As it is difficult to find a position for stretching, I recommend releasing the fibres instead.
There are 2 ways of doing this. Firstly, massage. Sitting on your bed, using your knuckles and cream, press into the side of the thigh and run your knuckles down towards the outside of your knee. Use as much pressure as you can tolerate and try this for 30 seconds then repeat on the other side. This one is quite easy to do after the shower. Secondly, you could use a foam roller. These are easy and fantastic. Lie on top of the foam roller on your right side with the side of your right thigh resting on the roller at your hip. Bend your left knee and place it in front of the right leg for stability. Keeping your right leg straight and using your hand for support roll yourself along the foam roller until it is at your right knee. Then roll back up to the thigh. Repeat for 30 seconds and try on the left side.
The gluteus medius muscle of the buttock is extremely important for control of your sideways hip and pelvic movement each time you bear weight on your leg. It is also an integral in controlling your thigh stability for good knee mechanics below. Try the Clam exercise or single leg squatting to strength and build control here.
Lying on your left side with your knees bent, feet in line with your bottom and shoulder. Find your neutral pelvis and make sure the hips are stacked on top of each other. Lift your top knee while keeping your feet together without rolling the hips backwards. Think about the leg being heavy and lifting it with only the bottom. Aim for 2 sets of 8 and repeat on the right side.
For a harder more functional exercise, try the single leg squat which is our exercise of the week outlined below.
Last but not least, activating your 'core' -the diaphragm, pelvic floor, transversus abdonminus (TA) and multifidis muscles - are key to maintain stability of your pelvis and spine as you shift your weight from side to side and twist the trunk with running and walking.
To assist in you picturing this 'core' system imagine the following: your pelvic floor muscles are shaped like a hammock running from your pubic bone to your tail bone right between the legs. Your TA acts like a corset from the front of the abdomen and wraps around deep in the waists towards the spine. These deep abdominal fibres interlink with your deep spinal multifidis muscle, stabilising one spinal vertebra on the adjacent.
Try this simple exercise to increase your awareness of these muscles working together. Lie on your back with your knees bent in a neutral pelvic position. Take a breath in and as you exhale lift through your pelvic floor muscle and deepen the navel towards the spine. Relax as you take a breath in and repeat this activation each exhale. Make sure your buttock muscles are relaxed and you stay in a neutral pelvis position.
Your exposure to our exercises at The Fix Program aims to challenge these 'core' muscles in many varying positions – standing, squatting, when using your arms, or on the mats. Your job now is to be that little more aware of them when out for your walking or jogging session.
Take the time to be a little more pro-active and prevent injury and pain. Have fun!