Running Can Be Risky Business For Women
Posted Monday, 18 October, 2004
The majority of runners with whom I work have two things in common: They are new to the sport, and they are women. Becoming a runner – the training part – is challenging enough. Add to that challenge a woman’s risk factors for injury, and you’ve got a sport that requires extra care in training. My most successful “new” runners are those that understand the risk factors for women, and take the appropriate steps to reduce the likelihood of injury.
On average, women’s hips are wider than men’s The Q-angle is the intersection of the tibia and the quadriceps muscle. For men, it’s between 8 and 10 degrees, and for women it’s usually about 15 degrees. Consequently, a woman’s foot hits the ground at a greater angle than a man’s foot. These biomechanics – especially an excessive Q-angle (i.e., greater than 15 degrees) – promote overpronation, which can lead to a variety of injuries. Common problems from overpronation include shin pain (posterior tibial shin splints), foot and ankle pain, knee problems.
Statistics also show that women are more likely to experience stress fractures than men. Reports state that this is because women’s bones tend to be smaller than men’s, and smaller bones are less able to absorb the shock from running.
Counteracting the Risks
It is especially important that women find shoes that correct for any biomechanical problems. A shoe that provides motion control will reduce the effects of overpronation. A top priority for not only women, but for all runners, is to get into the right shoe at the beginning of a training program.
Women also need to do specific exercises and stretches that promote flexibility and strengthen leg muscles. Focusing on quadriceps and hip flexor stretching, and light strengthening, can head off many knee and hip-related problems.
Pay attention to your daily nutrient intake, including calcium. The RDA for adult women is 800mg per day, which can be hard to achieve through food intake alone. If necessary, take a calcium supplement to ensure your bones are getting the tools they need to stay strong throughout training.
As with all running injuries, the key is listening to your body. If it’s sending you pain and strain signals, it’s telling you to back off of training and allow the tissues time to heal. Time, patience, and smart training lead to great running experiences!
The following web sites provide very thorough and useful information on a variety of running-related injuries:
Information about stress fractures and calcium: http://www.rice.edu/~jenky/sports/calcium.html
The book Running Injury-Free by Joe Ellis, is a great resource for learning about your personal risk factors for injury.
Follow up by Jennifer Bostwick - SheRuns publisher
I have created SheRuns because I believe women runners need a voice and a space for expressing themselves. Although more women run than ever, there are limited magazines for running, in general, and insufficient magazines and articles aimed at women, in particular. Running is individual, for certain, but as a group, I believe women make up an amazingly connected presence with unique perspectives, goals and lives. With SheRuns, I hope to address issues that directly relate to running and how it fits into our lives as women. Excerpted articles for the current issue of SheRuns will be posted here monthly. This is the third article to be published. Be sure to come back and check out next month's article! Send me a note, let me know what you think.