Here at Prairie Orthopaedic and Plastic Surgery, we’re a pretty active bunch. We’ve got runners and cyclists in our midst, as well as hikers, walkers, swimmers, golfers…you get the picture, right? But, we’re also doctors and nurses and physical therapists who (aside from occasionally getting injured ourselves) see patients every single day who have injured themselves while participating in an activity that they love. Now, sometimes the injuries are unavoidable – suffering an ankle injury after being slide tackled during a soccer match isn’t something that one can really be “prepared” for or, for that matter, trained to avoid any subsequent injury.
However, there are LOTS of areas in our athletic lives that we do have the ability to control in regards to staving off injury and what not. This involves everything from making sure that we’re wearing the appropriate gear – be it safety (like helmets, pads, shin guards, etc.) or otherwise (sturdy shoes, etc.) – to ensuring proper body mechanics and the like. Now, obviously, each and every sport will have its own set of “rules” in regards to what’s right and what’s wrong when it comes to form and function. For the purpose of this blog series we’re going to focus on running – specifically, on some of the most common mistakes that runners tend to make. And, we’ll offer up some sage advice on how to correct those issues NOW so that they don’t become BIG PROBLEMS later on – we want you to be able to enjoy the sport of running as much as possible, but to be able to do so while avoiding injury at the same time.
Let’s start with something that should seem pretty straightforward – running speed. After all, “running speed” is simply the speed at which one runs, right? Well, yes, but the speed at which you run is a result of stride length multiplied by stride frequency which transports the whole topic into a slightly more “scientific” realm. With that in mind, consider this – in an attempt to “go faster”, many runners will first attempt to increase their stride length, as opposed to their stride frequency.
In an “optimal” setting, a runner should have a stride frequency of approximately 180 foot strikes per minute. How do you know what your stride frequency is? Well, while you’re running, take 15 seconds to count your steps and then multiply that number by four. How close is it to 180? Lower? Probably. Now, why is this a problem? Well, basically because the more time your feet spend on the ground, the more energy is required to propel yourself forward. By focusing on your cadence first you’ll be able to increase your running efficiency. Then, once you’ve got that down, you can begin to add stride lengthening into the equation.
Thanks for joining us for part one of our blog series on Running Done Right. Over the course of the next few blogs we’ll examine heel striking, the effects of an unrelaxed upper body, and more! So, stay tuned for more great running tips!