Better, Faster, Longer, Stronger
Do you dream of being that runner where every step of every mile is 100% pain free?
No aches, no twinges or niggles, no lingering soreness from yesterday’s session.
Well, you are not alone! Research shows that as many as 79% of runners get injured at least once during the year.
The high rate of running injuries makes focusing on prevention key. If you can prevent injuries, you’ll be able to run more consistently, reach a higher weekly mileage and do more challenging workouts.
Think of running pains in terms of a spectrum. At one end you have severe, full-blown injuries, we’ll name that the red zone, which includes stress fractures that require time off. The other end, where you're in top form, is the green zone. Mild aches that bug you one day and disappear the next sit closer to the green end. Unfortunately, many runners get stuck in the middle, in the not-quite-injured but not-quite-healthy yellow zone. Your ability to stay in the green zone depends largely on how you react to that first stab of pain. Often a little rest now, or reduction in training mileage and intensity, with some treatment, can prevent a lot of time off later. Developing a proactive long-term injury-prevention strategy, such as strength training, stretching, regular massage and foam-rolling can help keep you in the ‘green.’
So, What Causes Running Injuries?
Estimates suggest that anywhere from 60 to as much as 80% of running injuries are due to training errors.
Too Much Too Soon??
With running being the key risk factor for running injuries what other factors influence risk?
Historically a lot of emphasis was placed on intrinsic factors like leg length discrepancy, pronation (flat foot), high arches, genu valgus/varum (knock knee or bow legged) and extrinsic factors like ‘special’ running shoes being stability shoes or anti-pronation shoes, lack of stretching.
However, recent studies have shown there is no one specific risk factor that has a direct cause-effect relationship with injury rate or injury prevention. Whilst warming up, compression garments, acupuncture and massage have some evidence in reducing injury rates it is all a little grey. Leaving you with a multifactorial buffet of probable contributing causes to running injuries.
Runners become injured when they exceed their tissues capacity to tolerate load. A combination of overloading with inadequate recovery time. Poorly perfused tissues, such as ligaments, tendons and cartilage, are particularly at risk because they adapt more slowly than muscles to increased mechanical load.
Training errors and injury risk share a complex relationship - it may not be that total running mileage on its own is key but how quickly this increases, hill and speed training. The old saying of “too much, too soon” is probably quite accurate.
Recovery Time – Running places stresses on the body. If there is inadequate time between training sessions the body can’t fully recover and minor damage to tissues can consequently develop into an injury.
Inadequate Nutrition – Hard training causes depletion of muscles glycogen stores which is an essential fuel during strenuous exercise. The lack of it may cause fatigue and inhibit performance as well as dehydration and fluid replacement after exercise.
Muscle imbalance & weakness – We adopt stressful postures daily, particularly when sitting, where muscle imbalances can develop.
Prior Injury – One of the strongest risk factors for injury is a previous injury in the past 12 months. Ideally, it’s best to avoid the first injury (!), otherwise – ensure your injury is fully treated, healed and rehabilitated before a training programme is resumed.
- Watch your mileage! – you should aim to increase your weekly mileage by no more than 5 – 10%.
- Include recovery days and Cross-train.
- Run on different routes and surfaces (including grass) to vary the repetitive nature and load on your body.
Group runs are great for motivation, fun and company but ensure you can run at your own pace within the group.
What are The Most Common Injuries to be Aware of?
Body tissues such as muscles and tendons are continuously stressed and repaired on a daily basis, as a result of both 'normal' functional activities and sport. An overuse injury often occurs when a specific tissue fails to repair in the time available, begins to breakdown initially at microscopic level and then over time develops into a true injury. So, the first time you feel a soreness, a stiffness or a pain is not necessarily when it all began.
The most common injury is ‘Runners knee’ or patellofemoral pain syndrome and accounts for over 40% of running injuries. This is followed closely by Plantar fasciitis, Achilles Tendinopathy and then ITB (iliotibial band syndrome), Shin splints and Hamstring strain. These injuries generally need complete rest or at least a reduction in training volume and intensity. Followed by physical therapy to promote tissue healing and mobility.
Although these are overuse injuries there is frequently an underlying muscle weakness and/or flexibility issue that needs to be addressed with specific rehabilitation exercises.
Clicking on the following injuries will take you to informative Prevention & Treatment guides that you may find helpful -
- Medial tibial stress syndrome (shin splints)
- Patellofemoral pain (runner’s knee)
- Achilles tendinopathy
- Plantar fasciitis
- Hamstring strains
- Iliotibial band syndrome
While guidance can be given, it is general in its nature, whereas individual complaints may need individual attention. If you do pick up an injury (including 'tightness' 'irritation' or 'niggle') that you’re worried about then the sooner it’s treated the better!
Sports Massage Therapist (MFHT)