Spring is either here or will be here depending of the hour of the day it seems. Many of you will be looking to return to running outdoors. Let’s talk about how runner’s can protect their hip joint while running. But first, some facts about running.
Eight-two percent of runners will get injured. Most injuries occur because the body can’t stabilize in the frontal plane, side to side motion, or the transverse plane, meaning rotation. Micro traumatic loads applied mile after mile will cause breakdown of the joints. There is an association between hamstring injuries and a decrease in hip extensor strength, pulling the leg backward behind the body using the butt, and eccentric hamstring strength. An ankle sprain can cause deficits in gluteal proprioception, where the joint is in the space, as well as causing a decrease in gluteal strength making it more difficult for the gluteus medius (one of the three gluteal muscles) to stabilize the body in side to side motion, frontal plane motion, and during gait. So what does all that mean? It means you have to pay attention to not just forward motion, but side to side and rotation.
Let’s define mobility, stability and flexibility. According to Gray Cook, PT, “Mobility is your body’s ability to move freely without pain or limitations. Stability is your ability to control movement and maintain your body alignment while you move. Flexibility refers to a muscle group or a joint’s normal ROM, (range of motion), usually without taking in to account how it interacts with other body parts.”
Running strengthens the cardiovascular system and the muscles that propel us forward, but does little to strengthen the muscles that control side to side motions, or rational motions. Running places a compressive load of 250% from head to toe, 50% load forward and backwards, and 20% side to side. How the body stabilizes in side to side and rotational motions while moving forward governs injury and performance potential. The gluteus-maximus muscle, the back butt, is the most important muscle responsible for extending the hip and keeping the pelvis stable on the hip. So run from your butt.
No offense, but women traditionally have weaker butts and looser joints, making it harder for them to stabilize their bodies running. The good news, there is no evidence to show running is harmful to the joints. In fact, moderate volumes are beneficial to the joints. Cartilage gets stronger with compressive loads. Running <25 miles per week doesn’t show degenerative changes, but >65 miles per week does show some evidence of degeneration.
So should you run? If that is what you like I say absolutely. Just understand there is more to running than lacing up the shoes and going outside. Body mechanics have to be correct so tissues aren’t overloaded. You have to be able to stabilize the body. Remember, you can’t shoot a cannon off a canoe, you need to be strong in all planes of motion, not just the motion of going forward or backwards, but you also need to be strong on one leg with good control. After all, running is just a single leg squat while moving forward in between. Train to run, don’t make running your only training tool.
In life you are required to move many different ways, in a lot of different positions, and under varying loads. Be ready to live, train for life. Ideally when starting your running program, you need to have enough mobility to get your leg behind you when standing, have a stable core, hips, and foot to maintain posture and optimize transfer of energy, and enough strength and power from the glutes to drive the body up and forward. God speed and stay hydrated!