Common mistakes that keep runners from starting line

Experts say assessment, strengthening exercises can prevent injury

ORLANDO, Fla. - Lorrie Simmons started running almost exactly two years ago.

"My friend was in town and staying with us to run the wine and dine half marathon (at Disneyworld) and was hobbling around the house but had the biggest smile on her face," said the 37-year-old mother of two.

On a dare, Simmons decided she too would become a runner.

"I was addicted from first run. I was miserable. I was dying. I was just telling myself just get to the next driveway and you can walk, but I loved it," she said.

Nearly 10 months later Simmons completed her first half marathon.  She would do two more halfs before deciding to take the plunge and sign up for a full marathon.

But instead of resting and preparing for the Disney marathon this week, she is in physical therapy healing a plantar fasciitis injury.

Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of the of the fascia on the bottom of the foot, which is physical therapists say is very common in runners.

At the University of Central Florida, Dr. Carey Rothschild is studying long distance runners and analyzing what makes them prone to injury. She said most injuries happen in the lower extremities below the hips down to the feet.

Besides plantar fasciitis she said runners also experience shin splints, knee pain, Achilles tendonitis and IT band issues.

"Usually when people get injured is they do too much too soon or they go too fast," said Rothschild, whose been a physical therapist and a runner for over a decade.

She said another common cause for injury is when runners start doing speed workouts in their training or they add hill running.

But Rothschild is specifically looking at hip and core strength and how it correlates to injury free running.

"Athletes that are in say throwing sports, they spend a ton of time perfecting their form. If it's a pitcher they are working out their rotator cuff all the time and they are working on the perfect pitch but runners just think they should be able to go out and go and they don't think about  what do my hip muscles actually need to be doing in order to be successful in a long distance race," she said.

The first thing she recommends to all runners no matter how novice or advanced is to get an assessment of their core and hip strength from a doctor or physical therapist. 

After assessing strengths and weaknesses a therapist can provide a strengthening program.

Rothschild provided the following assessment and strengthening tips that runners can do on their own at home.

  • Do a self assessment in front of a mirror:
    • To check for symmetry perform a double leg squat
      • If knees are buckling and feet turning in there could be weakness in the hips
      • If heels are not staying on the ground, it indicates tightness in calves
    • To check for stability balance on one leg
      • Close eyes to see if that changes stability
      • Bend forward to touch ground while on one leg to perform a single leg dead lift
      • Instability indicates weakness in hips and core
  • Exercises to strengthen hips:
  • Exercises to strengthen core/stability:

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