Andrew L. Rosen, MD
As the winter fades, many of us see the warmer days and longer daylight hours as a driving force to get back in shape. Although many of us still enjoy running in cold conditions year-round, it’s very hard not to get excited by the chance to start shedding layers and run outside.
Unfortunately, spring is also a very common time for running injuries to occur. Increased weakly mileage, increasing speed and frequency of runs can be a recipe for trouble if the legs are not ready for it. Many of us sign up for spring races many months in advance, putting pressure on ourselves to get back into shape to perform. Even without a specific race goal driving our training, it is important to plan a spring running program carefully.
The most important way to stay out of the orthopaedic surgeon’s office is to carefully control a training program. Time spent making a careful plan of increasing workouts can be very effective in allowing a runner’s legs to acclimate and stay below the threshold for injuries. Key components include:
• Slow increases in weekly mileage
• Avoiding frequent back-to-back daily runs initially, allow for recovery time. Cross-train on recovery days to vary the forces across the legs.
• Working in speed and hill intervals slowly. Don’t try and hit the same high-intensity splits you did in the fall when in peak shape
• Replace worn out shoes with new ones to decrease stress across the legs
• Make sure the rest of the body is strong – core and quadriceps strengthening exercises are vital to reduce stress and maintain balance during running.
• Don’t forget to stretch – hamstrings and calves especially need to be loosened up before and after runs. Simple stretches or devices like foam rollers should not be neglected as a runner increases activities.