Some of us are born biomechanics nightmares!
I certainly was not a natural born runner and suffered many running injuries due to the way I ran. Here is a picture of me running, training for my first marathon.
Elbows sticking out, slouched shoulders and bending at the waist, and legs flying everywhere in different directions. Injuries waiting to happen.
And yet I did manage to get to the finishing line of my first marathon and go on to run numerous marathons and come of out alive! But with injuries galore.
How about you, have you managed physical triumphs you are proud of, even though your body was in a lot of pain and discomfort, and it was damn hard?
But how about those numerous injuries?
We can usually work around these minor disabilities of body mechanics and injuries by reaching out for the medicine cabinet at home and drowning our pain in pain killers.
The drug shop is like a repair shop, it patches things up and treats the superficial symptoms which leads to a very slow recovery rate, as the main cause of the injury has not been addressed.
The focus should be the enemies that cause injuries to happen in the first place.
Remedies to stay injury free
Mostly, injuries are caused by two major enemies:
Poor body alignment and over training
Poor body alignment
Poor body posture causes stress on your bodies muscles and ligaments which eventually leads to a pull or tear, an injury. When you have legs flying one direction, your arms the other and your torso either bent over or crooked,
you are consistently causing mayhem in your body.
Your body then sends out signals of pain and discomfort and is screaming at you, and if you are not listening, it gives up and lets you know it needs your attention rather rapidly.
Poor body alignment can lead to and cause the following:
- Poor Circulation
Your blood cannot freely move around your body as it gets stuck in the areas where its restricted. Also, the blood is the healer and is needed for times of injury and so ensuring good posture will help with this.
- Muscles not supporting body
The stronger muscles will overcompensate (take on the work load) of the weaker muscles to support them. This can cause over-use injury to the stronger muscles as they will be working too hard.
- Lack of awareness
A slumped position reduces your awareness of what is going on around you. Having a bird’s eye view and not the ground view makes you feel more happy as it raises your mood and you notice more things going on around you.
- Zoned out
You feel spaced out and not with it. Compare a slump position to an upright position and you will see the difference of your alertness.
- Energy flow is blocked
Chi, the life energy force will become stuck and blocked in the areas of the body out of alignment. Chi needs a nice upright column to be able to flow up and down easily.
Imagine your spine as a column and when its straight Chi can flow easily and increase your energy levels as it works with you to move your body.
- Reduces overall well-being
Being out of alignment can depress your mood and makes you feel low. The aches and pains associated with poor posture can add to this feeling.
Here is a very simple trick to align your body correctly.
Lift the crown of your head upwards as though being pulled by a bungee cord from the sky.
Lifting your crown will do these body alignments to your body automatically:
- Lengthen your spine and straighten it out.
You will feel an immediate release of tension and feel more relaxed in the back.
Imagine your spine like a needle, straight and strong. When your spine is straight Chi (pronounced chee and also spelled qi or ch’i) a strong life force makes a human being totally alive, alert and present, be able to move up and down your spine to generate a force of energy you can use in your runs.
If you are slouched and bent at the waist this precious chi energy force cannot flow easily and becomes weak which will make your feel sluggishness and fatigued.
- Automatically engage your core muscles making them tighter.
This will support your torso while walking and running.
The feeling of core engagement is a slight tension in your lower abs.
Having a stronger core will connect all of your body together as one unit giving you a feeling power and control in the way you run.
- Make landing on the ground lighter with less impact.
The less impact you have when landing on the ground when running, the less chance of injury.
Gravity has a relentless pull down force to pull towards the earth. To counteract this consistent downward pull, lifting from the crown will pull you upwards and make your step lighter.
- It straightens your cervical vertebrae, the neck bones that support your head and neck,
When your neck vertebrae are aligned in their proper position it relaxes your neck and releases any tension. If you suffer from neck pain this is an instant relief.
- Your SCM (sternocleidomastoid) muscle will stretch and expand your chest to allow you to breath better.
The SCM connects the base of your skull with the top of your collarbone. It is a long muscle in the side of the neck that extends up from the thorax (the chest area) to the base of the skull behind the ear.
When you lift the crown of your head, your chest lifts giving your lungs more room to breathe.
Do this whenever you find yourself slumped at your desk and need some brain power, or if you are out running and need more breath.
- Does wonders to your posture and save’s your lower back from injury.
If you are a distance runner and on your feet for long periods of time, anything over the two hour mark, you start to get tired and have a tendency to bend at the waist.
Being focused on consistently lifting your crown to the sky and then relaxing the body, your spine and lower back can take a rest from supporting your body weight, especially your head which weights a ton.
This is something your spine was not designed to do. Your spine is designed to give your body support for movement and give you flexibility, and protects your spinal cord, a set of nerves running from brain to rest of body. Without either you would not be able to be active.
By being upright with a relaxed straight back you will notice that the lower back is able to be in a position of relaxation, rather than being stressed out in awkward unnatural positions caused by slumping the back.
Also take notice when sitting for long period of time or driving a car especially on long distance trips, having good posture is the answer to those aches and pains that you feel in your lower back.
- Prevents and cures a sore neck and shoulders
Your head weighs the same as a cannon ball! And with that kind of weight you don’t want your head drifting backwards as this causes strain and pain in your neck.
When you lift your crown up, your chin lowers which allows your head to drop forward and align with your shoulders. You’ll never come back from another run with a sore neck or sore shoulders again.
- Increases your energy and uplifts your mood
If you have a tendency to bend at the waist when you run or walk, lifting your crown will straighten up your posture and give you a new view to the world.
A Slumped hunched over posture not only drains on your efficiency and energy but makes you feel low too.
An upright straight back immediately gives you a feeling of a lighter happier mood.
- Your voice will be stronger and clearer
When you lift and straighten your spine and neck your voice is able to be projected better as it straightens the area in the throat called the larynx, allowing your vocal cords to function better.
Great if you are a singer too!
- You connect and tune into your entire body
Once you are naturally lifting upwards from the crown of your head every time you walk and run, or sitting, you will feel completely tuned into your entire body, from head to toe.
This one movement of lifting from your crown will change your change the quality of your life in many ways as you can see from the list above.
Spend some time making this a simple, mindful practice of your own and start to notice how you feel in your body, how the aches and pains seem to disappear, and how you feel yourself mood wise.
To get a comparison of how it feels so it sinks in, lift your crown and then don’t lift and then body sense the difference it makes in how your body feels.
After practicing this it will become automatic as you will love how it feels, and you’ll be hooked.
A side note, if you are aged 40 or over you may notice a decline in your posture appearance, this is because as we age we start loosing our fight with gravity’s constant pull downwards.
Having back aches, protruding stomaches and back curves, dropping shoulders and an increase in fatigue and tiredness.
All this can be prevented and helped by simply being aware of your posture alignment and knowing what is good posture.
By standing tall in an upright position with your head floating on top of your shoulders, and aligning your shoulders with your hips and ankles in a straight line, gravity’s pull works with you instead of against you.
Here are diagrams to help you visualise good posture
This picture shows the correct and incorrect position of the head
This picture shows you different types of posture. The first one is the correct way to stand, tall and straight
Doing too much exercise in a period of time, and not allowing a gradual progression of fitness and ability to happen, will lead to you becoming worn out and your bodies ability to fight of illness and injury will be greatly reduced.
Factors that reduce the chance of injury
The synergy recipe of injury-free running or exercising is composed of these 3 areas:
- Gradual Process
- Body Sensing – listening and connecting to your body’s cry’s for attention and nurturing
- Breathing correctly and relaxing the body
Gradual process is the action of starting slowly and building up your fitness, stamina and speed as you progress through your training regime. The body then is allowed to adapt to the movement of running in stages.
For an example, if you are training for a marathon, you start slowly and gradually build up your mileage and speed, rather than going head first into training, running at high speeds wasting your energy and loading up the miles too quickly.
It’s just like going through the gears of your car from a parked position, you accelerate through the gears until you reach cruising speed, otherwise you strain the engine and something blows, and waste precious fuel.
Gradual process is the key to ensuring you are not overloading your body with undue stress on the muscles, ligaments and bones and being able to keep a momentum in your running program with stops and starts.
When you start a running program slowly you body will gradually loosen, relax and gain momentum, allowing natural progression of fitness and stamina to happen.
This will boost your self-esteem and spirit, and keep your motivation high so you can achieve your fitness goals.
Listening to your body via Body Sensing
Body sensing is connecting your mind to your body, by focusing and listening to the thousands of signals your body sends you when you exercise.
Your body has many sensory sensations sparking all at once when you exercise and some are louder than others that need attention, like pain which is telling us something is not working as it should.
This is what Body Sensing can do for you. Once your mind is focused on your body and running, you can direct that focus to sense the stress alerts of tension in your body as they spring up.
Once you identify the areas of tension, focus on deep breathing into that area of tension to release it.
This changes running into a holistic practice of focusing and meditation, each time you go out for a run, no matter how stressed you are.
By focusing on running form, breathing and relaxing, you also make an opening in your mind to clear away the clutter of negative thoughts, giving your clarity and focus.
Because your mind is on your body form and body sensing, there is no room for the effects of a bad day, or any other life issues that are causing you grief.
When your mind does wander, you can always bring it back to the present, just by remembering to focus on your breathing, relaxing and checking any tension, and then adjusting your body form to allow a flow of energy to occur.
Breathing whilst running
“ I get out of breath and then find running hard. What should I be doing?”
The above question is something I hear a lot from my running clients.
When this question is asked, I reply that they might not be breathing correctly, and give a little education on why they need to breath deeply to give oxygen the muscles to make them work efficiently.
Whilst running your muscles need enough oxygen to function properly, and without sufficient oxygen the natural process of cellular respiration is reduced.
This simple process is where your muscles use the glucose and fatty acids in your food to convert into energy to produce a molecule know as ATP for the muscles to use.
Your breathing rate increases when you run as your muscles are working hard and need more energy and produce more ATP. Your increase in breathing rate is away for your body to keep up with the increased ATP production.
You can breathing like a freight train and still not be getting enough oxygen to your muscles. The best way around this is to learn to belly breath and nose breath.
Belly breathing helps you take in more air and use all of your lung capacity and nose breathing helps you make better use of the air you take in. So when you run, here is what to do:
- As you breath in through your nose, allow your belly to expand first with air and then your chest.
- Then either breath in and out via your lips like you are going to whistle, or breath in and out of your nose. Choose what ever is comfortable.
Breath deeply pushes air into your lungs fulling engaging them and triggers a calming effect. The calming effect helps you relax and therefore you are less likely to puff and pant.
Mouth breathing causes you to puff and pant as it only uses the upper chest for the breathing movement. Your lungs are not fully engaged and so you don’t get enough oxygen and the calming benefit is non-existent.
You will also experience:
Lowered heart rate due to less effort needed to run. Breathing fully gives you more energy as oxygen is pumped into your muscles effectively.
Calmness and focus as the brain is feed with alpha brain waves which produces the meditative relaxing state of mind.
Shorter recovery times and increased endurance due allowing a bigger directed stream of air to flow deep into the lungs where the oxygen can be efficiently absorbed into the bloodstream. The blood when filled with sufficient oxygen is able to circulate better in your body and flush out toxins that cause post-exercise discomfort and even pain.
Relaxation and focus, and enjoyment!
Proper deep breathing relaxes your whole body and mind.
As you master your breathing, your mental focus will improve and you can concentrate on running form and body sense for any body stress signals to release. Doing this will make you feel less stressed and so you become relaxed and enjoy running more.
There will always be parts of your run that feel a chore, but as you learn to relax and breath deeply when running, running becomes more like a therapeutic event rather than a chore.
Mindset and movement
Your self-esteem can fall to a rock bottom after getting an injury. You feel down and you wonder if it will heal enough for you get back out there again.
Instead of being drowned in your self pity, its best to keep moving and find a low-impact exercise you can do to keep motivated, keep your mind off the injury and keep your fitness levels from dropping too low.
This is called active rest.
By keeping moving, you are allowing your body’s best healer, the blood, to keep flowing and allowing the nutrients from your food to be transported to your muscles for recovery.
The best low-impact exercises that help with recovery are:
Swimming is not weight bearing as it supports you and elevates the pressure from the gravity pull. This supports the body to rest even though you are actively moving.
Bicycling is a great cross training exercise for runners as you use other muscles not used in running. This will build up and strengthen supportive muscles that will help you when you run.
Yoga – is exceptional to keep you flexible, relaxed and grounded in your body, and help you feel a sense of wellbeing.
Doing active rest, not only are you helping the body recover by keeping the healing blood circulating around the injury, you are also attending to your emotional and mental wellbeing by giving yourself a mental rest from all that focus and concentration when you are exercising.
By doing these low impact exercises can be all that is needed to keep you from falling into a deep depression over your injury. But sometimes a complete rest is need from any activity if your injury is severe enough to warrant it.
Only the advice from your physical therapist, which I would recommend seeing, or your doctor would be your guide on how you proceed.
The Remedy to keep your immune system strong and stay free of illness
Nutritional and sleep healing
The body can heal and recover from exercise naturally without the use of pain killers and other drugs, if given the right environment to help assist the healing and recovery process.
When you exercise you put stress on your immune system. Our immune system get’s severely depleted when over do it in exercise, and so we are exposed to the bugs that cause those common colds and flu.
When you hear about people succumbing to illness after a big physical challenge, its because they have lowered their immune system so low that the body cannot fight the always present bugs in the air.
Injuries can be intensified and made worse by poor nutrition and too many late nights. Your body needs rest and the right fuel to recover from exercise.
If you are not replacing the nutrients that are lost in training or exercise, you increase the risk of getting an injury due to the body struggling to heal itself.
If you have a highly nutritious diet of preferably organic whole foods, superfoods, clean filtered water and good nights rest, your exercise regime will works it’s magic to boost your immune system, help you detoxify your body, provide oxygen to the brain, and keep you feeling super fantastic!
Over to you,
Have you suffered a major injury when running and how did you recover?
What is your number one challenge to remaining injury free?
Does this article aid you in overcoming injuries?