How many times have you been kicking ass during your training run then all of the sudden that nagging pain creeps back up and completely zaps your mojo? You end up at home, and instead of feeling that sense of accomplishment from finishing a great run, you feel defeated and disappointed yet again that you can’t get into the flow of your training. Avoiding running injuries is the key to momentum.
You have followed all of your coach/trainer/physical therapist’s recommendations–you do the warm-ups and mobility work, have the right shoes, training plan, and cross training–but that damn injury keeps following you like that runner that won’t seem to get off your heels, no matter how much you speed up or slow down.
Of course, there’s SO many more facets to your running health (see my Running 102 post), and I’d love to geek out over all of them with you… but today, there are more pressing matters. I want to talk about what you’re doing day in and day out that can be negatively impacting your running.
Sitting, Sitting, and More Sitting: Stop this to start avoiding running injuries
By now, many of us have heard Dr. James Levine’s phrase that “sitting is the new smoking.”1 Not only does prolonged sitting potentially cause a whole host of health problems2, it’s wrecking your PR. We need certain ranges of motion in our joints that allow optimal running form, but if you spend 8+ hours in this position:
How readily do you think your tissues will be ready to open up into these movements:
Our bodies are made to adapt, and they will adapt into the stimulus we give it the most, so if you’re a desk jockey, guess what?! You’re going to be a rock star in the chair and a dud on the road- whether that’s reflected in your race times or number of injuries. Be honest with yourself, take a look at your last work day, how much of the day were you sitting at a desk or in a meeting? Sit at lunch? How much time in the car for your commute to and from work? Go home and sit with your family or watch TV? How many hours are you up to? (Comment below what your sitting hours are, does this surprise you?)
Now if you’re one who has to stand for work, or one of the lucky ones who has a standing/sit-to-stand desk, don’t worry, I’ll get to you in the next post. Back to my professional sitters though. You think, “This doesn’t matter, I warm up and I do stretches, so I’m good.” I want you to do a test really quickly, stand up (I know you’re sitting reading this!) and you’re going to do a lunge test.
Take your shoes off, stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Take a big step forward with your right leg. Make sure your front foot is in neutral (arch is not collapsing toward the floor), left glute is squeezed tight, and hips are squared forward. Now slowly drop your left knee straight down to the ground. You should be able to do this keeping an upright torso and straight spine, hips stay forward and front knee doesn’t fall in toward midline. Try the same thing on the other side.
Tough? Maybe you still have some things to work on. This position best mimics the ranges that you should be able to achieve for running, and although there is variation from runner to runner when you veer too far from what’s normal for your body, things start to break down. Tightness in one area is going to cause strain somewhere else and your system can’t work synchronously as the well-oiled machine it’s designed to reach that race’s finish line.
What Can You Do?
1. STAND UP AND MOVE! Simple as that. Yes, being able to get a standing desk would be ideal, but even just getting out of the sitting position every 20-30 minutes can make a world of difference. Ever feel 90 years old and creaky when you try to get out of your chair? That’s because your ass has been sitting too long! Move more often! You don’t have to go anywhere, just stand and move your joints! [insert 60 sec video of a break from desk] Motion is lotion, people, and the more of it you do, the happier your joints will be. With this trick alone you’ll be on your way to feeling more energized for your runs.
2. Transition to a standing desk. This doesn’t mean you have to go buy a top of the line desk and stand for 8 hours tomorrow, your body will rebel. It is absolutely worth it to bring it up to your employer to get you a standing desk, and here is a great guide if you’re not sure how to approach the conversation. At the very least, grab those empty Amazon boxes, pile them up on your desk/kitchen table until you have a good height for your keyboard & screen, and voila! Recycled standing desk. Not sure what a good setup looks like? Here, Dr. Theresa Larson breaks it down for you. As far as timing in your 8 hour work day, start with just 15-30 minute increments of standing every hour or every other hour. It takes getting used to, but work your way up to the majority of your day standing, with the shorter increments being sitting. As a side note, I understand this can be hard to do if you have a desktop setup to be able to transition back and forth throughout the day if you don’t have an actual sit-to-stand desk, but get creative! I guarantee you can figure something out. Leave a comment or shoot me an email, and I can help point you in the right direction! Chances are if it’s a question or struggle you have, someone else has had to deal with it too.
“But Megan, I’m stuck in meetings all day, I’m forced to sit.”
Have you ever tried standing during a meeting? Just stand behind your chair, you’ll be surprised to see how much more attentive you can be. If they ask what you’re doing, tell them “I’m more alert and can think more clearly/creatively to contribute when I’m standing!” Some variation of this is bound to make the colleagues happy that you’re willing and determined to be an active part of the discussion. Also, pitch the idea to your colleagues to spend some of those meeting times in a walking meeting, outside or around your building! You never know the answer until you ask, and chances are your colleagues already think you’re “that crazy runner,” so allow them to humor you and join you for a walking meeting, you may all be surprised!
These are easy changes you can make RIGHT NOW to help yourself in life and in running. In addition to workplace sitting, consider your habits when you’re at home. If you go home and park it in front of the TV or computer for another few hours during your down time, consider getting on the floor and doing some stretches, foam rolling, or working on some deep breathing while you’re watching TV or surfing the net.
Next post we talk about HOW you’re standing throughout your day as you transition to less sitting time. What might you be doing wrong when you stand that can still be causing you problems when you run? We’ll find out in the next post along with what you can do to make your work environment more FUN and engaging.