BY Toby Massenburg
September 11 2009 6:00 AM ET
Don't let common running injuries break your stride
Of the many reasons running is so popular, the best few are these: It can be done almost anywhere by nearly anyone, it’s an effective way to stay in shape, and it can provide highly effective stress relief. But running is high-impact and comes with the chance of injury if done improperly. Avoid or recover from these ailments by adding a few remedies to your workout.
RUNNER'S KNEE: Pain under the kneecap. Cause: Inflammation of the IT (iliotibial tendon) that runs down the outside of the thigh. Remedy: In a standing position, place the right leg behind the left. Slightly bend the left knee and straighten right leg, bend at the waist toward the left side and lean over a support, such as a desk. You should feel a stretch along the outside of the right thigh while holding the stretch. Release after 30 seconds and repeat the process on the opposite side.
SHIN SPLINTS: Tenderness along the front and side of the shins. Cause: Running on hard surfaces or on the ball of the foot. Remedy: Alternate ice and heat on the shins as soon as pain occurs. Decrease intensity and frequency of your workout for a few days; also consider wearing shock-absorbing insoles and incorporating sideways and backward walking or jogging into your running routine.
PLANTAR FASCIITIS: Sharp stabbing pain in the heel and arch of the foot. Cause: A band of tissue that connects the heel to the front of the toes develops small tears from running or jumping on hard pavement. Remedy: Orthotic insoles to relieve pressure on the heels, stretching your calf and heel.
Stretching, the Truth
It’s important to stretch, but many neglect it completely—at the risk of losing range of motion and stability in the muscles and joints. Poor flexibility inhibits the ability to build muscle and increases susceptibility to injuries. The best kind of stretching comes in three forms -- dynamic, static, and myofascial. Done before a workout, dynamic stretching preps the body by mimicking the exercises planned by increasing blood flow, and it increases strength output. (For example, pre–bike ride, lie on your back with both knees at your chest, pedaling in a cyclical motion.) A postworkout static stretch -- stretching a muscle as far as you can with mild discomfort for 10 to 30 seconds—permits muscles to recover and allows for muscle lengthening. Myofascial release stretching works by pressing your body weight at different muscle sites with the use of a foam roller. This stretching works like deep tissue massage for the area around the joints. Stretch two to four times per week for full benefit.
Bottoms Up! But Only If You Keep the Calories Down
Having a few beers can pack on the pounds faster than you can say “Cheers.” That’s because, unlike calories from carbohydrates, protein, and fats, those found in alcoholic beverages (all of them) contain no nutritional value. And worse, when you’re drinking, your body puts the brakes on burning fat and calories until your liver processes the booze, which can take up to an hour per drink. That means that any calories you ingest while drinking will probably just be stored as fat. But take heart: Bending that elbow has some benefits, including a small increase in artery-beneficial HDL (“good”) cholesterol that comes from one drink a day for women and up to two for men. Before you pour, however, take note: One drink isn’t a jumbo tankard, it’s 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor. So what’s a happy hour enthusiast to do? Choose a drink low in calories so your body can process it quickly without too much caloric damage. Say adios to margaritas, which contain up to 325 calories each, and say priviet to vodka and club soda -- just 75 calories.