Running is far and away the most popular workout in the United States. Thousands of runners in the Dallas/Fort Worth area participate in the annual Dallas “Turkey Trot” held every year on Thanksgiving morning and the Dallas Marathon, which occurs in December. Since some of these runners will likely tweak their backs while training or competing in the races, Dr. Isador Lieberman, a back surgeon at Texas Back Institute and frequent competitor in distance races, was asked to offer some tips to help novice and veteran runners avoid his examination table.
Running Competitively: Here are the Numbers
According to Running USA, competing in middle and long distance races has become enormously popular for both genders. Here’s a “Running Snapshot” for 2014 U.S. from this organization.
- Overall, there were 18,750,000 finishers in U.S. running events.
- Females account for 10.7 million finishers nationwide and continue to represent 57% from event fields. Males in 2014 represented over 8 million finishers in U.S. races.
- Total number of U.S. running events reached 28,000
- The 25 to 44 year old age group is the sweet spot for running, accounting for half of finishers.
- The half-marathon continues to grow with an annual increase of 4% finishers with an astounding 61% female participation.
- In 2014, the 5K maintained the #1 position of all race distances with 8.3 million finishers, claiming 44% of all finishers in the U.S., while the half-marathon again held the #2 position with approximately 11% of the finishers, followed by the 10K (7%).
The Dangers of Running
Dr. Lieberman has competed in many marathons and middle distance races and he, better than most, knows what can happen to one’s back during the training and competition.
“A marathon is a substantial exertion and stress on the entire body,” he notes. “The repetitive impact can inflame previously vulnerable joints including the discs and facet joints of the spine, as well the exertion can overwhelm the core trunk muscles which support the spine. It is always important to incorporate and maintain a core stamina and flexibility program as part of the training schedule. In addition paying attention to proper running posture, appropriate shoes, and a graduated training schedule will help minimize the risk of back injuries.”
Many runners have decided to use an interval running training regime to help stay in shape. This form of running, where the participant uses bursts of speed in combination with slower speeds over a given distance, involves different muscles from longer distances. Dr. Lieberman explains the challenges of both.
“Both long distance and interval training have the potential to over- exert and stress the spine as well as the supporting structures such as the muscles and ligaments,” he said. “The mechanism of injury is however different in that ballistic rapid acceleration and deceleration activities can cause acute strains or tears of the ligaments muscles and tendons and may even result in vertebral body fractures. In endurance training the mechanism of injury is repetitive stress that cumulatively predisposes to progressive degeneration and inflammation.”
5 Tips to Help You Compete or Complete a Marathon
Competing and actually finishing a marathon, which runs for 49.2 kilometers or 26.2 miles, can be a cathartic experience. In fact, many put this experience on their personal “bucket list” of life goals.
As an avid runner and spine specialist, Dr. Lieberman offered 5 medically – based tips to compete in a marathon:
1) Adhere to a graduated training schedule. It must become “religion.”
2) Incorporate core stamina and flexibility exercises into the program.
3) If you develop an injury and depending on the injury, give it full rest then slowly get back into the training over a defined period of time.
4) Set your goals before the race and during the race, break up your race day into smaller achievable increments, i.e. hit a 5 mile target then tackle the next five mile target and so on.
5) Music! Spend the time to develop a song list that will help pace you and keep your mind off the race. This involves having certain songs for specific segments of the race, certain songs that remind you of pleasant things or will motivate you.
What Was His Toughest Race?
Many people talk the talk, but Dr. Isador Lieberman also runs the run! When asked about his many marathons, he noted his average time is about 3 hours and 30 min. So what was his toughest race?
“It was the Leadville Marathon, which is run in Leadville, Colorado starting at 10,000 foot elevation,” he smiled. “And the whole race is uphill and into the wind!”
If you’re training for the Dallas Marathon or any shorter races and have sustained a back injury, contact us for an appointment.