GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

January 4, 2013

Picking up running? Prevent injuries before they occur

On the Mend
Joe DiVincenzo

---- — January in New England probably isn’t the best month to start a running routine. But if you’re going to actualize your New Year’s resolutions, you might as well start now.

For novice runners, the first few weeks are always the most risky when it comes to acquiring an injury. An aggressive, impact-type sport, running can cause you a host of problems if you aren’t careful.

Most running-related setbacks, however, can be mitigated with a few days of rest, but some can become chronic and nagging if ignored.

One thing every runner ­— or any exerciser for that matter — should know is that prevention is always more valuable than the cure. So if you’re planning on slimming down this season, read on to see how you can keep yourself on the straight and narrow jogging route.

Rest at least once per week. Your body will desperately need the healing time – especially at the beginning of a new routine. Running daily at the outset of a routine could very well land you in the clinic. Pick at least one day a week where your legs are completely activity free — not just running free.

Don’t huff and puff. Running form breaks down at a geometric rate when you’re excessively tired. Once your normal stride pattern is altered, your body is much more susceptible to injury — and the only thing more painful than watching someone with bad running form is being that runner. So, get your breath back, straighten up and fly right.

Alternate hard and easy workouts. Have at least one day of light activity between difficult workouts. Allowing your legs time to recover before your next workout will boost performance and keep you parts free from harm.

Are your feet tough enough? Maybe, but keeping your feet dry is the easiest way to avoid blisters, which can be a notorious problem for new runners. If your feet sweat a lot (or if your shoes are smelly — that’s another sign), change your socks before you run. Also, try putting some odor- and moisture-absorbing foam insoles in. They’re thin, absorbent and you’ll never know they’re there.

Travel light. Running with cumbersome items hanging off your arm, bouncing around in your pockets or occupying your hands is a good way to throw off your stride (as well as annoy you). If you’re serious about running, get the right gear — such as shorts with small zip-up pockets and support straps for your iPod. Even a pair of gloves with a pocket for a single key might come in handy.

Your broken-in shoes may be broken. Every dog has his day, and so does every shoe. Running shoes are only meant to last a few hundred miles, and that lifespan decreases if you use them all the time. Old shoes are frequently found to be the cause of nasty problems such as plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis and bone spurs, so don’t get too attached to any one pair.

Switching surfaces is a no-no. Frequent changes in running surface selection prevents your body from accommodating to any one of them. Your muscles and tendons have a memory and a preference for a surface — so pick the most convenient one (the one you’ll have access to the most consistently) and get used to it. Keep it for a minimum of three months before changing it.

Gloucester resident Joe DiVincenzo is a physical therapist and clinical specialist in manual therapy. He writes “On the Mend” weekly. Questions may be submitted by email to joedivincenzo@comcast.net