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The Runner's Body - The Musculoskeletal System

Posted Mar 15 2010 12:00am

The Runner's Body - Part 1
Introduction and The Musculoskeletal System


The introduction explains stress and adaptation as far as the muscles are concerned. There are 3 stages: the alarm stage, period of adaptation/resistance, and the exhaustion stage. The body has the ability to adapt to increasing stress and therefore becomes stronger, fitter, and faster. If you add too much stress too quickly, you become injured. For this reason, the body needs periods of recovery in order for adaptation to take place. This is why rest is as important to training as speed work is. Striking the correct balance is key.

Musculoskeletal System: Consists of muscles, bones and joints.
"The musculoskeletal system produces the movement that allows us to run. Human movement is incredibly complex, and even 'simple' movements are achieved through a series of neural, chemical, and physical steps" (10).
A Solid Foundation
Chapter 1 describes the musculoskeletal system as the foundation of running. It goes on to describe the structure of the body and how various muscles work. This book explains complex topics, like how the body works in a way that we can understand by comparing it to everyday situations. At the end of the chapter, there are a variety of exercises demonstrated to strengthen the body and increase mobility in order to prevent injury.

Muscle Soreness
Chapter 2 touches on something every runner can (unfortunately) relate to: Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or DOMS. The authors of this book refer to DOMS as "the most feared acronym in running." DOMS typically occurs anywhere between 12-72 (with the most severe soreness occurring 24-48) hours after a difficult run and is most frequently caused by a long slow run OR a very fast speed workout. During a difficult run, the muscles become damaged, literally torn apart. But, surprisingly, the soreness felt after a long or fast run actually has a protective quality to it. If the body is too sore, you will be unable to run, and your muscles will have time to repair themselves. The verdict: avoiding DOMS is inevitable. If you do not run hard enough to feel sore, you will not improve, but if you run too hard all the time, you will become injured. Striking a balance is key. Let the process happen.

Bone Health
Chapter 3 discusses the ever important bone density issue. Contrary to popular belief, women are not the only ones who need to be concerned with their bone density. Runners, both male and female put stress on their bones, up to 6 times more than body weight per landing! "In a 10-mile run, you're going to stress each bone approximately 7,000 times." That is a lot of stress. The good news is that weight bearing exercise (running, for instance) is also the very thing that prevents bone loss. "The addition of weight training is especially valuable because it allows targeting of specific bones, which running does not."

~Nutrition for Bone Health
In addition to calcium, our bodies also need, adequate vitamin D, and plenty of fruits and vegies.

Running Injuries

Running is so hard on the musculoskeletal system because of high impact repetition. There are 3 ways to reduce the likelihood of injury due to running. They are: Run less, reduce impact, and develop more resilient legs.

1.)Run Less
Running less is self explanatory. The less you run, the more time your body has to recover. Easy to say, not so easy to do, however.

2.) Reducing Impact and its Effects
Impact can be reduced by: changing shoes, changing running surfaces (asphalt to grass, for example), water running, or using an elliptical. Altering your gait may decrease the effect impact has on your body, and strength training has been shown to also decrease the effects of impact to the body.

3.) Developing More Resilient Legs
If you train properly, that is, enough, but not too much, you can "enhance the durability of your bones, muscles, and connective tissues." Everyone is different, however, and every body can take a different amount of stress before becoming injured.

The chapter includes a number of strength exercise for injury prevention, such as: Side bridge , Side-Lying Leg Raise , and Eccentric Heel Dip. It also discusses the Big Five, or the most common overuse injuries and how to prevent and overcome them.

Finally, it is important to remember that running not only may cause injuries, it also protects us against them. The authors advise that you increase your mileage slowly and sensibly.

What do you think about the first part of The Runner's Body? I know it is a lot of information, and I tried to summarize without giving too much away. So far, it is a great book and I have learned a lot. Next up: The Cardiorespiratory System!
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