Spring and summer in the Greater Green Bay Area offer a fabulous array of road races, bike rides and outdoor events that invite muscles that have been doing other things (or nothing at all) during the winter months. For this month’s final focus on “street level” well-being in Greater Green Bay, we thought we’d provide a few friendly suggestions on how to be optimize your outdoor activity.
Many recreational exercisers spend the winter months running indoors on tracks and treadmills, or cross-training. If it has been a while since you have clocked any mileage on the road, you should be cognizant that most injuries occur at one of two points in training: when you start out too fast, too soon and when you begin running again after a previous injury.
Because most running injuries are cumulative, having an awareness of common patterns of overuse will help you manage your training to ensure you “just do it” without “overdoing it.”
- Runner’s Knee: Also known as Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS), this common injury results when irritation and inflammation arise where the kneecap meets the thigh bone. The most frequent cause of Runner’s Knee is an imbalance in the thigh muscles, where weak quadriceps muscles do not support the proper alignment of the knee cap and tight hamstrings exert pressure on the knee joint. Exercises that strengthen the quadriceps and stretch the backs of the legs go a long way towards preventing PFPS.
- Shin Splints: Excruciating if left too long, shin splints present as tenderness along the front or the inside of the lower leg caused by excessive, intense force on the shin bone and attached tissues. Often associated with start/stop sports like tennis and soccer, shin splints often occur when a walker or runner adds speed work, tempo runs or simply increases the volume of activity precipitously. Good shoes and proper orthopedic awareness (shin splints are more common in people with flat feet) also help prevention efforts.
- Achilles Inflammation: Pain and tightness in the area of the Achilles tendon occur when a runner increases distance and speed too quickly. Tight calf muscles are a big contributor to achilles injury and tendonitis.
- Illiotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS): Persistent pain on the outside of the knee can be a sign of ITBS. This condition results when the iliotibial band thickens due to use and begins to run against the knee bone. Rest, stretching and icing help to heal ITBS.
On Race Day
On race days, most athletes find the biggest challenge resides in managing pace and expectations. Making a plan ahead of time to prevent some of the most common race-day problems promotes safe and successful racing.
- Heat Injury: Wearing loose-fitting, light-colored, breathable clothes keeps things cool. Use those water handouts as a quick splash to lower your body temperature and harness the cooling effects of evaporation.
- Muscle Cramps: Cramps tend to happen when a runner pushes too fast for too long without proper training. Including a few faster runs at race-day pace during training acclimates muscles to the kind of exertion a race requires. If you do cramp during a race, stop and stretch, or gently massage the cramping muscle until it releases.
- Upset Stomach: Guzzling fluids prior to a race only increases pitstops, tummy issues, and belly cramps. Prior to start, drink only to quench your thirst. Interestingly, research shows that drinking fluids in races lasting less than an hour does not improve performance.
- Blisters: Feet swell while running, walking and even riding, which make blisters a problem on race day. Testing shoes and socks prior to racing, using wetness wicking sock and talcum powder inside your shoes cuts down on friction.
Don’t let injury cramp your summer fun! Got a tip for optimizing fitness in the summer? Share it here!