By Douglas Holl, USAPHCAugust 22, 2019
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- For many participants, training for a longer race like the Army Ten-Miler involves discipline and dedication, but it's going to take more than a good pair of running shoes to avoid injuries -- runners need to have confidence and a road-tested training plan.
"Believe it or not, one of the most important things you can do to help prevent the chances of running injuries is to be confident in your body," said Army Maj. Timothy Benedict, an Army Public Health Center physical therapist who specializes in injury prevention. "Research shows that your confidence in your ability to run is one of the most important things to prevent injuries."
Benedict, an experienced distance runner, says following a running plan will help increase a runner's confidence and can be much more effective for preventing injuries than even the perfect pair of running shoes.
Overuse musculoskeletal, or MSK, injuries like shin-splints can occur over several hours, weeks or months from repeated low intensity forces to muscles, bones, joints, tendons and ligaments.
"Pay attention to pain," said Tyson Grier, a kinesiologist in the Injury Prevention Division of APHC. "Pain, especially in a joint (knees, ankles, hips) or bones (shins, feet) can mean you are increasing distance or frequency too quickly. If this is the case, the first step is to reduce running or consider an alternative exercise. If pain persists, seek medical evaluation."
Benedict says the key to avoiding surface-related overuse injuries is following a training plan that incorporates cross-training, strength training and including different types of runs each week rather than long, slow runs day after day.
"Most running injuries are due to running too much, too soon, without adequate progression of training mileage," said Benedict. "Some individuals who buy expensive shoes with lots of cushioning rely on the shoe to prevent injuries rather than preparing their own bodies for longer runs."
Runners can find long distance running plans at many popular runner-focused websites, or follow the 10-week or 20-week training schedule linked to this article.
Although training for the Army Ten-Miler should incorporate training runs on a similar surface, some researchers believe that occasionally changing the running surface may be best for a runner's body. For example, rotating runs between a track, trails, treadmill, and asphalt or road. The human body prefers gradual changes over rigid repetition.
"Think about driving on a long road-trip," said Benedict. "If you keep your body still in the exact same position for several hours without taking a break, how does your body feel? Ouch! In the same way, your body can get sensitive to the repetition of mile after mile without making general adjustments to your training surface and running plan."
Runners suffering from shin-splints or medial tibial stress syndrome may benefit from exercises that increase the load capacity of calf muscles, said Benedict. These include exercises like bent leg and standing calf raises. However, it's important to consult with your medical doctor or physical therapist for the best treatment plan.
Benedict strongly believes confidence and proper training will prepare every race participant. He finds inspiration in the story of Rob Jones, a Marine who lost both legs above the knee in Afghanistan.
"He trained his body and was able to run 31 marathons in 31 consecutive days," said Benedict. "If Rob Jones can do that, you can run the Army Ten-Miler!"