Stay Run-Healthy During the Pandemic
By Bob Wilder, MD, FACSM, Medical Director, The Runner’s Clinic at UVa
Most running injuries are associated with some type of change in our routine. Some are obvious like a sudden bump up in our mileage. Some are not so obvious, like a sudden increase in time driving the car when the kids return to school in the fall. All that sitting can get to us.
The pandemic has resulted in changes for all of us, and some of these can impact our run training. I’ve seen a few patterns in the office that have contributed to injury. Avoid these pitfalls to continue fun training.
1. Abrupt increase in training. Working from home has meant more time on our hands: little time getting ready, no commuting time, and more control over our schedule. This extra time resulted in sudden increases in run training for many. It’s exciting to have the time to push the envelope a bit, but let’s be smart about it. For most, adding an extra 2 miles a week to our total weekly mileage is a good limit. For those over 30 miles a week, you can push this to 3 extra per week. The long run should increase 1 extra mile per week max. Add speed work and hill work gradually. When increasing your training volume and intensity, make sure you are taking care of proper hydration, nutrition and needed recovery. And don’t forget to address the “extras”: warmup, stretching, rolling. These get to be easy to forget when we aren’t training with our normal group.
2. Cross-training (yup). We think of cross training as run safe, but this is not always so. Covid has forced us indoors and for many this has meant treadmill running and cycling. These are both great, in moderation. The mechanics during treadmill running are very similar to land running, but the muscles work a bit differently which can contribute to injury if we switch too quickly. Cycling is low impact, but our joints and muscles are working differently and this can lead to injury even when we perceive our effort as easy. Some of the popular video based programs are downright challenging, so resist the temptation to push to the limit until you’ve worked at a controlled level for several weeks.
3. Sitting and shoes. Being at home more has meant more sitting for many. Much of this is spent on the couch instead of our workstations, causing changes in our posture, spine alignment and muscle balance. Many enjoy spending the day in socks or bare feet whereas at work we wore supportive shoes all day. This change in our foot mechanics changes the loading from our feet all the way through our spine, often without us even noticing. Limit the time in bare feet; even a supportive sandal is better than no support at all. And remember to get new shoes when they are due. 350 to 400 miles is the lifetime of a shoe and this includes walking miles. We aren’t out shopping much these days, but do stick to this important guideline.
I’m sure ready for more normal again, but in the meantime let’s stick together and be healthy.
See you on the roads.
Editors note: Dr. Wilder and his UVa Runners Clinic team have served, on a purely volunteer basis, as the race medical director for over 20 annual CTC events, every single year since 2000.