Running is a sport that puts a lot of strain on joints and muscles, specifically the knees, ankles, feet and lower back. Even those who have run all they’re lives eventually find that the constant pounding takes its toll on their bodies, making them wonder if they’ll have to give up the form of exercise they love. Back pain doesn’t have to force you to hang up your running shoes, though; you can continue the race by being smart about how you run.
Check your running process
If you experience lower back pain while running, you may need to be little more attentive to your running process. You know you should thoroughly warm up and stretch, but that takes time. SPORTS-health says to be sure to do a thorough warm-up if back problems plague you. To best protect your back, stretching your muscles by doing some yoga before running is a wise idea. Then start your run by walking for one to two minutes to get the blood flowing and the muscles warmed up. Move up to a jog from there and then into your run. When you’ve finished running, reverse the warm-up process. Be sure to stretch your lower back when you’re finished.
Check your form
Besides be more attentive to your running process, you may need to examine your form. Bad form will put unnecessary strain on your back and exacerbate any existing problem. Proper running form has your chest out and your shoulders relaxed and back. Your arms will pump up and down, and your feet should hit mid-foot to the toes for each stride. Keeping your strides short and fast is better than long and bounding.
Check your footwear
If you take the time to warm up and cool down and have proper form but are wearing lousy shoes, you could still be making your back problem worse. Taking the time to see a specialist who can check your feet and stride and put you in a good shoe is just a good investment in your body. If you’re a hard-core runner, replace your shoes after 250 miles of use, making sure you’ve already broken in your replacement pair ahead of time. You might consider using lighter workouts as the perfect time to break in new shoes.
Build your core muscles
Having all the right gear will only take you so far, though. Toning the core muscles used in running will help protect you from injury or from further injuring weak areas. Runner’s World recommends four easy exercises you can do at home.
- The plank. Do a push-up, but rather than putting your weight on your hands, let it rest on your forearms. Once your body is up and completely straight from head to toe, hold that position for one minute. Then, rotate to your side and suspend your weight on the side of your forearm, kind of like a sideways push-up. Hold for one minute. Rotate to the other side and repeat.
- Swiss ball pikes. Get Swiss ball, or exercise ball. Do a handstand while letting your shins rest on the ball. Roll the ball towards your hands, pushing your hips to the ceiling, and then roll it back.
- Hip raises. Lie flat on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor and arms out to your sides. Raise your hips so your body is a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Hold for five seconds.
- Lie on your stomach. Keeping your feet together, raise them, your head, your chest and your arms at the same time. Point your thumbs to the sky. Hold this position for 30 seconds. Relax for five seconds.
Each of these exercises focus on building muscles in the abs, glutes, hips and hamstrings: your core running muscles. With strong muscles, you shore up the weak places to protect against injury.
Back problems don’t have to mean your running days are over. You may need to plan a little more for each run, take extra care when picking shoes and spend some extra time building your core muscles; but you can still enjoy the sport you love. If chronic back pain has stopped you from running, contact the specialists at Atlanta Brain and Spine Care today and let them get you running again.