Here are some top tips for the prevention of running injuries from Physiotherapist Lucas Macardle MCSP.
Avoid Training Error
Have a training plan! This will help prevent over-training, under-resting, and the potential for injury that this brings. It’s estimated that as many as 60% of all running injuries are due to training error.
Set goals that are realistic and achievable
Run with a club or a friend to find extra motivation and to make it more enjoyable.
Have a proper tapering off plan close to race day
Gradually increase the length of your run. A good guideline is not to increase mileage by more than 10% per week — the risk of injury increases significantly above this level of graduation. That’s why it is important to start early enough to be able to stick to a good plan.
Vary the type of training you do
This includes the intensity, speed, and even surface you run on. Avoid just sticking to long, slow runs. Elite endurance runners average 80% long, slow runs in their training. So 20% will be higher intensity work like intervals, speed work, and tempo runs.
Get proper footwear
Make sure you are running in shoes that are designed for running and are suitable for the job. Contrary to popular belief, unless you are an elite runner, or have a diagnosed foot problem, the only real qualities a running shoe must have is comfort and support.
Get it sorted
If you have any existing injuries, get them seen to by a health professional. Do not ignore pain or injuries however small. These can quickly escalate when you are training hard and will set you back. Also, running has a protective effect on the body and actually helps with conditions like arthritis; making the body stronger providing you do it the right way.
Consider a biomechanical screening or gait analysis to address any movement problems or deficits. Stride length or running cadence can affect not just performance but injury risk too. Optimising these will help you run more efficiently, with less effort, and can help you smash that personal best!
Do a preventative exercise program (Prehab)
A preventive/corrective exercise program, based on an individualised plan, will help prevent the little niggling injuries from occurring. This is best based on a comprehensive biomechanical screening. Focus on the three big ones: core stability, flexibility, and balance.
Incorporate a strength training program in your training plan. Recent research has shown that injuries can be reduced by as much as 50% by doing adequate strength and resistance training. Contrary to what many people think; this will not bulk you up or make you slower, but will help your body adapt to training demands and protect you against injury. Strength training is essential for improving performance too. Try to schedule one or two strength sessions per week.
Make sure you take on proper nutrition. Fueling the body with good natural sources of energy is as important as any other aspect of your training. You can undo all the hard work you put in on the roads by ignoring your diet — It’s also vital to keep hydrated. Dehydration causes injury and a significant loss in performance. You may need to drink three to four litres of fluids per day to ensure you stay adequately hydrated. A loss of just 5% bodyweight in water can equal a 30% reduction in performance.
Make sure you have good recovery strategies. Growth, adaptation and repair only occur during periods of rest! Recovery starts the moment you stop running; not the next day. Total recovery includes nutrition, hydration, and sleep, as well as things like foam rolling, massage, stretching, and most importantly rest.
Dealing with acute injuries
Do not run through pain and ignore it hoping it will go away — chances are that it will only get worse. You will often benefit more by resting rather than trying to train when you’re injured. Listen to your body. You will undoubtedly get sore and pick up niggles. Unfortunately, this is the life of a runner. In the first one to two days after picking up an injury your actions are very important. The key is allowing the area to heal whilst controlling any excess inflammation.
Try to remember: PRICE NO HARM
R Relative rest
I ICE the area (20 minutes every two hours)
C Compression (strap the affected part or use a tubi-grip)
E Elevation — keep the body part elevated to help reduce inflammation build up.
H Heat — don’t use heat as this will increase inflammation
A Avoid aggravating movements or activities
R Running (You may need to lay off at least one session)
M Massage of the affected part (again this will increase inflammation initially).
And finally: Go easy on the medication. Generally, do not use analgesics like paracetamol or NSAIDS’s like Ibuprofen unless medically prescribed — especially in the first 48 hrs. Anti-inflammatories are not recommended in acute injuries anymore due to their interference with the body’s natural healing process, of which inflammation is one.