60-80% of runners are injured. Many of these injuries are caused by a common mistake in running technique. By changing this one small error, you can drastically decrease your risk of getting injured. You may even be able to get rid of a pain you are currently experiencing.
The error you want to correct in your running technique is how hard you land, or your vertical loading rate. Every time your foot hits the ground while running you create a force of 1.5 -3 times your body weight. Vertical loading rates have been repeatedly linked to running injuries. If you can learn to properly absorb the force of impact, you decrease your risk of becoming injured. You want to trying and stay on the lighter end of the landing force, and land with good form so your body can absorb the impact properly. The easiest way to do this is to control your cadence – or or how many steps you take in one minute. For the majority of runners this means increasing their cadence or step rate. Try to get the number of steps you take per minute up to an average of 180 (180 give or take 10 steps is a good target). An increase in cadence encourages your foot to contact the ground more towards the middle or front of your foot, your knee to have more of a bend, and your leg to be under the center of your body. This will help you minimize your landing force, and puts your body in the correct position to absorb the force; therefore, decreasing your risk of injury.
There are several ways you can train your cadence. The first is to literally count how many steps you take per minute, and try to reach around 180. This is 3 steps per second so it can be a bit tricky to count. Another way is to download a metronome app to your smart phone (any metronome will do, even the one your children use for piano lessons), set it to 180 beats/minute and run to the beat with each beat being a step.
This new step rate is likely to feel a bit odd at first, like you are taking little tiny steps. It is much easier on your joints to take smaller steps than bigger steps, so your body can handle the impact of running. It takes about a month of consistent training for this to feel natural, but once you are there you will notice you can run longer and more often without feeling as achy.
By Amy Fahlman
BSc PT, MCl Sc (manip)
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