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Optimum Performance: Avoiding Crescent City Classic training injuries

With the 8 a.m. start of the Allstate Crescent City Classic 10k (6.2 miles) race set for April 19, more than 20,000 runners will traverse the flat, scenic course through the streets of New Orleans — finishing in City Park at the Roosevelt Mall. 

Some runners, who also compete in marathons (26 miles, 385 yards), will use this event to fine-tune their “kick,” since the last six miles of a marathon is a sprint to the finish line.


Whether you are a seasoned veteran or a novice 5k, 10k, marathon, or cross country runner, participation in racing events requires a proper training plan and an injury prevention protocol put in place to address one of the top causes of running injuries – repetitive overuse.

Having previously helped 14-year-old Slidell native Gabrielle Jennings, a First Baptist Christian School Class C cross country champion, overcome a hip condition, it goes without saying that muscle imbalances precipitated by overuse can be key factor to many undiagnosed running injuries.

In September 2013, | The Times-Picayune writer Nick Stillman said, “(Gabrielle) has never lost a cross-country meet in Louisiana, she can tell you without missing a beat that she currently owns 24 state titles in both cross-country and track and field, and she has dominated the sport since 2008, when she won her first high school cross-country title… as a fifth grader.

“The sophomore is a defending champ, but her freshman year was the most trying of her young career due to a hip condition that proved tricky to diagnose. But the office of Metairie-based fitness specialist Mackie Shilstone isolated a muscle-ratio difference between Jennings’ right hip and glute (butt muscles) that made her ‘feel horrible, like I couldn’t do anything. It would feel uneven.'”

Unrelated to Jennings’ situation, many competitive female runners face a unique set of biomechanical imbalances, which can be worsened by overuse.

The female anatomy may, in certain situations, predispose a runner to a unique injury potential due in large part to a muscle imbalance within the gluteal muscles, which are organized in two layers: superficial and deep.

“Two major gluteal imbalances commonly seen in the female runner,” according to physical therapist James Miller, Director of Rehab Services at St. Charles Parish Hospital, “are gluteal inhibition and relative gluteal weakness.”

Notes Miller, “Gluteal inhibition is where the gluteal muscles are not properly engaging (working). Relative gluteal weakness occurs when the strength of the gluteal muscles is disproportionate to other hip muscles.” This situation may occur as a result of poor movement patterns or improper training technique.

Add to a glute imbalance a tight piriformis muscle, which aids in the external rotation (turning out) of the hip joint, and you have the stage set for trouble. Why? Runners tend to try to run through discomfort until it shuts them down. These tired, overworked glute muscle imbalances can next cause trouble down the leg — impacting the knees.

The wider hip structure of the female anatomy may also cause, in certain runners, an increase in the Q – Angle (quadriceps) – the angle at which the femur (upper leg bone) meets the tibia (the lower leg bone). According to, ”a high Q-angle causes the quadriceps to pull on the patella (knee cap) and leads to poor patellar tracking. Over time, this may cause knee pain, muscle imbalance” – all of which may have started in the hip.

Miller recommends that runners should stretch all hip muscles to prevent imbalances, while strengthening the glutes with exercises such as single leg squats and bridges, quadruped (on all fours) hip extension, and side stepping with elastic bands around the legs, to name a few.

The single most important purchase a runner will make is footwear. When purchasing running shoes, do so later in the day, since the feet tend to expand from standing. Be sure to also have a thumb nail length between the end of the shoe and the big toe to prevent blisters. If you are a heavier runner, look for a shoe with a strong heel counter to reduce impact to the spine and a wider toe box to prevent cramping of the foot.

Enjoy the Classic – injury free.

Mackie Shilstone, a regular contributor to | The Times-Picayune, has been involved in the wellness sports performance industry for nearly 40 years. He is currently the fitness coach for Serena Williams and has trained numerous other professional athletes and consulted a litany of professional sports franchises. Contact him at

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