Running is arguably one of the purest forms of human movement. It is the basis of many sports and athletic pursuits. However, with running comes the risk of injury. Every footstrike while running results in impact forces 4-8 times the runner’s body weight. Consider that this will happen 800 times per kilometre of running. Injury prevention is of upmost importance to any runner, from beginner to Olympian. Here’s what you can do to help keep yourself injury free.
Join a running group led by experienced runners: The loneliness of the long distance runner should not be a barrier to your running. Running is a participation activity and local run groups thrive on being inclusive and open to all walks (or runs) of life. Training in groups also helps to ensure compliance with running programs and allows you to push yourself outside of your comfort zone to further improve your running fitness.
Avoid doing too much too soon: One of the most common causes of injuries is a sudden increase in training intensity or volume. A simple, commonly cited rule is the 10% rule. Do not increase your weekly volume by greater than 10%. While this may be somewhat simplistic and not apply in all running situations, it is an easily adhered to guideline which can help to reduce injury risk by allowing your body to adapt to stress that you’re are putting on it.
Rest and recover well: Rest and recovery is often noted by experts to be the most important component of a fitness training program. Your success with a running program (or any fitness program for that matter) is determined by your body’s ability to adapt to the stress of the activity. Resting and recovering well means ensuring you’re getting 7-9 hours of sleep per night, staying hydrated, eating a balanced diet and cross training. Strength training is very important to help reduce injury risk by correcting muscle imbalances but also is key in improving running performance by improved efficiency. Swimming, biking, elliptical and deep water running can further stimulate the aerobic system while reducing stress on weight-bearing joints, tendons and muscles.
Maintain a training log: Maintaining a detailed training log can help you to accurately monitor your training intensity and volume, while keeping you accountable. A training log can be used as a tool to analyze where any injuries/aches or niggles occurred and the pattern of symptoms (which can be useful for your physiotherapist). Be sure to include your distance, pace, intensity, effort level, and note down how each run felt overall. As well, be sure to note any aches or niggles felt during the run.
Seek expert advice: It is often said that one does not plan to fail – they fail to plan. Every runner needs a running plan. Seeking advice from a qualified healthcare practitioner when you are injured will allow you develop not only a treatment plan but also a return to running and future injury prevention plan. Ideally, try to seek a practitioner who has experience treating running injuries and/or is a runner him/herself . Do not ignore any aches or niggles particularly if they persist over several runs. Trying to run through ongoing pain can lead to movement compensations and secondary injury. A running assessment from an astute professional can help to identify contributing factors to running overuse injuries and help to improve your running performance. Running injuries are often multi-factorial and complex. There exists no panacea for any one injury – any person who is tries to convince you otherwise likely does not have your best interests at mind.
Keep healthy and enjoy the run!
Julian Cooper, M. Phty, BHK
Allan McGavin Sports Medicine Centre – Plaza of Nations