Is running causing you pain? As many as 40 to 50 percent of runners report a running-related injury each year. Many of these injuries are due to running’s repetitive nature compounded with an imperfect running gait.
Consider these three elements to help prevent repetitive motion injuries as you run:
- Cadence – This is the number of times your feet hit the ground per minute. Generally, shoot for 170 or more steps per minute while running. Use a metronome to test your current cadence. Try to match the metronome beats with each time your foot hits the ground. Then try to incrementally increase your steps per minute up to the ideal range. You may have to take shorter steps to stay on beat.
- Impact – This is the force with which your foot hits the ground. High impact (hitting the ground hard) may increase injury risk. Try to make your landing with each step quieter and softer. This will reduce the load on your joints and muscles. Also focus on reducing how much you bounce up and down as you run.
- Pelvic drop – This is how far the left side of your pelvis drops when your weight is on your right foot, and vice versa. Ideally, your hips and pelvis should stay relatively level to each other as you run. To keep your pelvis level, a muscle on the side of your hip, your gluteus medius, has to be strong enough to resist the impact. Targeted strengthening of this muscle should help. If the muscle is strong enough, practice keeping your pelvis level using a mirror on the treadmill: wear a brightly colored or contrasting belt low around the hips and try to keep it mostly parallel to the floor as you run.
Implement these changes in your running gait in small increments and with low mileage. These changes should not cause increased pain. If pain increases, stop and seek further guidance from your doctor or physical therapist.