Our top tips to avoid running injuries!
By Katherine Heyes, Clinic Manager.
As a clinician working in a sports injury environment, I see runners daily and they can often be some of the hardest to treat as runners just want to run and keep running and not too interested in doing much else. From a lifestyle point of view and discussions I’ve had with my clients running is convenient to fit around work and home life, can be very social, free (apart from the purchase of good quality trainers) and great for stress relief… all amazing reasons! However, my argument to this is how much are you having to spend on treatments with those reoccurring niggles but also how much better would you feel if you were becoming quicker, stronger and not having to take time out from injury every 6 weeks! There are not many sports in the world which don’t involve the need for a multi-component training program…and running is no exception.
Here is a list of my top 10 tips advised to runners to reduce your risk of injury:
1. Improve and maintain your flexibility!
- Daily stretching and mobility exercises are essential to improve and maintain your flexibility, this is turn allows your body to move more freely, improve performance and reduce any compensatory movement patterns which in turn can result in tissue overload and injury.
- This can include a nice relaxing yoga session (also great to destress) or just spending 10 minutes every morning running through a routine (see our video on stretches for runners).
- Stretching should not be rushed and should be performed on warm muscles.
2. Warm up and cool down before and after all runs and races.
- Before training (even if its just a run around the block) and races it is important to warm up. The faster the workout or race, the longer the warm up needed.
- The warm up should include running specific dynamic exercises like high knee drills, skipping, bounding, arm circles, and cross body arm swings.
- The cool down of 5-10 minutes helps to flush our lactic acid build-up in the muscles and reduces delayed muscle soreness.
3. Cross training and rest
- Running can be very demanding and unforgiving on your body. The high impact loads taken through your legs and spine can accumulate to huge levels during longer runs. When trying to train the aerobic system, alternatives that are low impact or no impact can allow improvements in your aerobic fitness without the demanding loads for example biking, swimming or cross training.
- Including rest days in your training schedule allows your body to recover and adapt to a running workout.
4. Include strength and core training in your program.
- As mentioned previously, high impacts and load are placed through the body when running. Strength training improves the body’s ability to withstand these loads and improve overall athleticism. This in turn reduces muscular fatigue that leads to poor performance and injuries. Runners will benefit from a program of 2-3 strength training sessions per week.
- Weight lifting, plyometrics and hill running are all effective methods of increasing strength.
- Core exercises are aimed at enhancing overall posture and trunk strength this will improve overall gait pattern and may improve efficiency of performance. These types of exercises should be performed regularly through the training week (I highly recommend Pilates…great at improving your core and postural position).
5. Gradually increase your mileage and periodise your training schedule
- Good aerobic activity is the foundation of your running performance. The principle of progression and periodisation means gradually preparing the body to handle workout stress. You slowly build up the amount of training you do along with bumping up the intensity. Doing this gradually is the key to prevent overloading the tissues by giving them the chance to adapt.
- Increases in training volume, duration and intensity should be a gradual increase of 5-10% per week.
- This principle also applies if returning from injury, it needs to be a gradual increase and not trying to return to distances/speeds you were hitting pre-injury straight away.
6. Refuel and keep hydrated
- Training volume can result in burning a lot of calories and damage to soft tissues, it is therefore necessary to provide the body with ample energy stores through adequate carbohydrate content. Protein is also essential in order to rebuild muscles and other soft tissue structures.
- Adequate rehydration is important and should not be ignored, even in the colder months when you might not feel as though you are losing as much fluid.
- The best fluids to take before, during, and after exercise are a 4-8% carbohydrate solution.
- If diet is inadequate and not balanced the risk of injury is greatly increased.
7. Environment – avoid harder surfaces where possible
- In the winter, there is often the inability to run in daylight, so runners take to lit roads and pavements. If too much mileage is performed on harder surfaces this too can lead to injury. Sometimes this problem is unavoidable. It is recommended that the longer runs are done off road at the weekend to reduce the load on the soft tissues and joints.
8. Have a gait analysis performed
- Poor foot biomechanics such as heel strike, excessive pronation, or a very rigid or very flexible foot arch can lead to inefficiency and injuries.
- Most runners can control these problems by carefully selecting the right shoe type or by seeing an expert that can analyse your running gait and provide you with a well-structured strengthening program.
9. Talk with a running expert or coach to analyse your training program
- Over training, running injuries and poor performances are often the result of an ineffective training program.
- A good running coach can help you develop an appropriate training schedule to meet your running goals and prevent injury.
10. Sports Massage
- Sports therapy and sports massage is an important adjunct to training, I recommend that runners have a massage monthly, this will increase mobility of tissues, improve the circulation replenishing glycogen and remove waste products. It is a bit like taking your car to the garage for a service. Once you’ve had your tyre pressures checked and your oil changed, you’ll be flying again!
At Physiquipe our team of highly qualified therapists can help you with your training. We provide gait analysis, injury prevention and rehabilitation programs, strength and conditioning sessions and sports massage to keep you fit and training to your best.
Book your session online here.