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Injury Prevention for Trail Running

As the snow melts, some of us are eager to don our running shoes and hit the trails. However, after several months of skiing, our bodies may need some fine-tuning to prepare for the demands of running, to prevent injury. A good injury-prevention program should include exercises for common running pathologies and should last at least 4 weeks to allow adaptation to occur.

Skiing in a stiff boot does not help the proprioception (think dynamic stability) in our feet and ankles, which can make us susceptible to ankle sprains. To prevent this, perform balance exercises such as standing on one leg on an unstable surface (e.g. pillow, BOSU). For strengthening the feet, which helps maintain the arch of the foot and can help prevent injuries such as plantar fasciitis, scrunch a towel with your toes like you are squeezing beach sand. Perform 3 sets of 20 repetitions, 3 times per week.

Moving up the chain, it is important to have proper strength and endurance of the hip muscles, specifically the gluteal muscles. These muscles help provide stability at the hip and knee, which can prevent issues such as IT Band Friction Syndrome and pain at the kneecap (patellofemoral) joint. There is a range of exercises that one can perform to address this such as “clams”, side-lying leg raises and lateral “band walks”. Consult a physical therapist to see what is best for you.

Strengthening the muscles around the knee (quadriceps, hamstrings and calf muscles) can help prevent tendinitis, muscle strains, and decrease the load on the joints. Hopefully, some of you have already performed some of these exercises in preparation for skiing. Again, there is a an assortment of exercises you can perform to address this such as lunges, step ups/downs, heel raises, hamstring curls, etc. However, I recommend having a consult with a physical therapist, especially if you are already having symptoms, to determine which exercises are most appropriate for you and to ensure you are performing them correctly.

Lastly, stretch! Hit all the major areas such as the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves and hip flexors. The loss of necessary flexibility can impact our body mechanics and running form. After running is a great time to stretch to prevent stiffness the following day. Hold stretches for at least 20 seconds, perform 3 sets per body part, at least 3 days per week.

If you have any questions please come see Howard Head on the Spa Level or call 970-845-9600 to receive an individualized assessment and plan.

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