by Benita Zahn
Ok. The pandemic has affected everything, including our running. Virtual races: for some they’ve been the saving grace, for others, a non-starter. With or without competition, it may have been the cold and ice that slowed your roll and now you realize that you’ve done more chilling and noshing this off-season than you meant to. But you’re probably itching to restoke your mojo and get back at it, as emails about upcoming races fill your inbox. But before barreling back to training, we need to keep some things in mind to avoid injury. Even seasoned runners need a few reminders.
To help us get ready for the upcoming running season I turned to Andrew Gaetano. He’s a physical therapist recommended by a friend who has been dealing with some serious back issues and she credits him with getting her back on her feet. Gaetano is the co-owner of Capital Area Physical Therapy.
What he tells me reminds me of lyrics to an old song, ‘Cause nice and easy does it every time.’ For starters he reminds me, don’t expect to do the mileage you did before tucking in for the winter months. Ease back in and mix it up. He’s an advocate of cross training and providing our bodies with a variety of motion. His general rule of thumb: make all the body parts work through a full range of motion every day – gently, of course. If your job has you sitting most of the time, get up. At the very least stand. Incorporate some stretches. If time permits, take a walk and again, incorporate different stretches. This is a good reminder for me. On days when I see one client after another, I may not have time to walk a few flights of steps, but I can always squeeze in a few stretches.
Then we talked about stability: the key to running because of the pounding the sport creates. As Gaetano points out, the impact of each foot strike needs to be correctly absorbed to prevent injury. Sure, a strong core helps but he also shared a screening tool he uses to determine your stability. He has patients stand on one foot. Remember, you’re always on one foot at a time when running. Not so with walking. How controlled or stable you are when on one foot gives him a good idea of how stable you are while running. As you stand on one foot check your toes. They shouldn’t be curling into the ground to keep you stable. Note the arch of your foot, it should be shaped like a rainbow. Check your knees as you stand on one foot. They should be soft, not locked. And your hips should be level. If one is lower than the other that will also affect your stability and when stability is “off” the chance of injury increases.
Then, for me, the million dollar question is whether to stretch pre or post run?
I can hear the smile form on his face as he tells me we need to think more of warming up not merely stretching. Bending over and touching your toes for 30 seconds is not high his list. Get moving first and then kick it into gear. It all gets back to gently moving your body through a wide range of motion all day, from when we wake to when we hit the pillow. In the morning we are ready to hit the road running while gently moving with the rhythm of the day.
About Dr. Benita Zahn
Benita is a certified Health and Wellness Coach working with clients at Capital Cardiology Associates. Benita spent more than 40 years as a health reporter and news anchor at WNYT in Albany, NY. She covered issues such as wellness, treatment breakthroughs, aging, nutrition, and the latest health care trends. Benita’s work has taken her around the world and across the USA. She continues to produce and host “Health Beat” a digital health interview program that posts every Monday and Thursday on wnyt.com and can be heard on the station’s podcast. Benita is a contributor to the weekly “Live Smart” page in the Times Union, the HMRRC Pacesetter and the new magazine 55+LIVING. Benita also created and co-hosts the podcast EVERYTHING THEATER.