High Schooler Mary Cain Breaks National Track Record: Tips for Injury-Free Running
Posted by Jenn F. on Wednesday, February 20th, 2013
This week a young track and field star achieved an incredible goal. Mary Cain, all of 16 years old, shattered a national high school record by running a mile in 4:28:25. Considering the fact that 4 minutes was once seen as the fastest possible mile for a human being, Cain is well on her way to an illustrious track and field career. Thought by many to be the country’s most talented young female runner since Mary Decker in the 1970’s, Cain has continued to consistently shave seconds off her time. I have no doubt that we’ll be seeing her in the Olympics pretty soon, and hopefully in college competition where she’ll undoubtedly avoid the student loan circuit. But for now, Cain’s main focus should be on preventing injury. Track and field injuries are very common, especially for serious competitors who spend many hours training every day. It’s a demanding sport that requires careful conditioning and preventative care.
Track and field is popular among adolescents. High schools around the country host competitive teams and encourage their athletes to train all year long for the competitive season. Out of that melee of young talent emerge some truly spectacular athletes, like Cain. But consider the thousands (perhaps millions) of other young runners who don’t have Cain’s public support, professional care, and dedicated coaching staff. These runners often compete in second-rate equipment, punishing their feet and ankles. One nearly 20-year study showed that girls, in particular, are susceptible to foot and ankle injuries. Sprinting appeared to be the number one culprit (hurdling was a major culprit too, but for hip, back and head injuries). Here are some stay-healthy tips for the young track and field star to ensure many years of happy, injury-free track and field.
- As always, it’s all about the shoes. Great running shoes are an absolute must for the competitive runner. There is a lot of mixed information about what shoes are best for road running, but when it comes to track spikes, minimal soled, low profile shoes are the norm. These shoes are designed to decrease drag and increase speed, but the lack of padding can be difficult to get used to. Get a well-made pair (with durable soles and arch support) and start slow.
- Establish a good stretching program and stick with it. Focus on calves, hamstrings, hip flexors, quadriceps, and ankles.
- Do plenty of aerobic exercise to strengthen the upper body, lower body, and core. You need all of your muscles to run well. If you only ever exercise aerobically, you never build up muscle mass that can help support your ligaments and tendons when you’re fatigued.
- Do no more than five vigorous workouts per week. You should have at least two full days of rest to recover from training.
If you do suffer a track and field injury, don’t delay. Visit The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine.
If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. Dr. Josef J. Geldwert, Dr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.