KEYS TO FITNESS: Avoiding Running Injuries

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YONEMOTO, SHEILA-colorBy SHEILA YONEMOTO, P.T., and DOUG GULICK, P.T.

Many years ago Alhambra had the good fortune to interest a world-class runner, Lynn Jennings, in running in one of their Moonlight 8K races. She later went on to win the bronze medal in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics in the 10,000-meter event.

During her running clinic at Alhambra High School, she imparted some important information to the local high school track teams about avoiding running injuries. She never had a running injury in her entire running career, which is quite a feat, since most runners do not escape some form of injury.

Her basic common-sense advice was to listen to your body and rest when not feeling up to par, and slowing down the pace of training when needed. This advice is not always heeded, according to writer Joe Henderson of Runner’s World, especially when runners live in a community and are not completely honest about listening to their bodies. They want to keep up their training schedule and sometimes do not let anyone know of their injuries. Fortunately for Lynn, she lived in a non-runner’s community and trained in the woods of New Hampshire with her faithful dog.

Another basic way to prevent injuries is doing adequate warm-ups and cool-downs, pre- and post-running events. The general rule of thumb is to start slowly and progress gradually, working your body up to a warmer temperature and even perspiring. Warm-ups are done dynamically, meaning you move versus holding a position, while cool-downs are characterized by static stretching. Studies show that static stretching done during the warm-up actually decreases muscle strength.

An example of a dynamic warm-up activity would be standing next to a fence or pole, holding on, and slowly starting to swing the leg back and forth to increase the leg’s flexibility gradually for about 30 seconds, 20-30 repetitions, and then repeat with the other leg. Your body should feel warmer and more flexible. You increase the intensity of the workout to mimic your event. Emphasis on what you would do depends on whether you are working on speed, endurance, terrain, mobility, or some other aspect.

Equal time should be spent cooling down after the event to stretch out muscles, normalize blood flow and heart rate, and even incorporating core leg strengthening into your routine. Basic moves include hamstring stretching, quad stretching, calf stretching and hip stretching.

The key is to progress gradually and safely. If, after your routine, you feel that you never want to do it again, it means you did it way too hard. Muscles adapt much more slowly than the cardiovascular system. Better to be safe than sorry. It makes for a much more pleasant workout and keeps you on course doing the things you want to do.

Sheila Yonemoto, P.T., has been a physical therapist for more than 30 years, specializing in integrative manual therapy, utilizing a holistic approach. She can be reached at Yonemoto Physical Therapy, 55 S. Raymond Ave., Suite 100, Alhambra, CA 91801. Sheila also offers a qigong “Chinese energy” exercise class. Your first class is free. Call (626) 576-0591 for more information or visit www.yonemoto.com.

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