The main reason runners get injured are "the toos": too much, too soon, too quick, or some combination of the three. But running injuries sometimes have deeper, harder-to-identify causes. There are often things that happen in the rest of your life that, over time, take a toll on the body you use to run. Here are seven non-running factors to consider when trying to figure out an injury.
1. Your Parents
You've blamed them for everything else, so why not your running injuries?
The construction of what we might call your running chassis—the length of your limbs, the width of your hips, your bone structure, your muscle-fiber type—is largely inherited. These underlying features of your body play a huge role in your running form, and can predispose you to being at greater risk for certain injuries.
For example, if you were born with a rigid, high-arched foot and lower-leg bones that curve outward, you'll probably land hard on the outside of your feet when you run. You can be susceptible to stress fractures in your feet or shins, or strains of the tendons that run along the outside of the foot.
Less visibly, despite your preference for long runs, you may have been born with a high percentage of fast-twitch muscle fibers, which make you more of a natural sprinter. You might therefore struggle more with marathon training and racing than someone who was born with a high percentage of slow-twitch muscle fibers, because your body won't be as adept at storing muscle glycogen and burning fat.
What To Do About It: Take a look around at the next family reunion and note structural commonalities. Learn what you can about your relatives' bodily woes, even if your relatives aren't athletes. Be honest with yourself about inherited conditions that might predispose you to injury. Once you've identified them, do regular strength and/or flexibility work that addresses these potential weak spots in your make-up, like some of these Workout Moves That Prevent Injuries.
2. Your PastThere's logic behind jokes about old football injuries and other past trauma to the body. A childhood fall, a broken bone that wasn't reset properly, a car accident, even how you came out of the womb can permanently alter how you carry yourself. Any subtle but seemingly locked-in change in your posture can introduce inefficiencies to your running form that can increase your risk of developing repetitive-strain injuries.
More obviously, if you lived a typical sedentary Western lifestyle for many years before you started running, the body you bring to running could increase your injury risk. Excess weight places tremendous strain on joints, tendons and ligaments. Inactivity reduces muscular strength and efficiency.
What To Do About It: As with your inherited physical traits, take as complete an inventory as possible of past insults to your body. Look at photos for patterns of holding one shoulder higher, or one hip lower. When you've identified imbalances from past trauma, work to correct them with targeted strengthening. If you're carrying excess weight, take a long-term approach to getting to a good running weight that will lower your impact forces.