“Running excites me, when I start to run, you don’t want to stop, your body wants more so you end up overloading your body and get injured” (Saragiotto et al 2014).
We see many runners who associate excessive running with something positive, rather than being potentially detrimental. Consequently, they may fail to adopt the necessary precautions to prevent over training. It’s easy to get into a habit of “getting the miles in”. This can lead to ignoring those “niggles” that may later turn into an injury.
So how do we reduce injury risk and run happy?
1: The 10% Rule
The 10PR is based on the principle that you try not to increase your weekly mileage by more than 10% from the previous week. It allows the load on the tendons, joints and muscles to be gradual. This means these structures have time to adapt and change in response to the training we undergo. For example, if you start with running 10 miles a week, within 8 weeks this will have increased to around 20 miles.
Most training programs for a race are often a minimum of 8 weeks. The 10PR is often the reason underpinning this time frame. The 10PR is be more applicable to those clocking up high levels of weekly mileage. If you are training for a 5km or 10km, you may find a range of 20-25% increase comfortable.
2: Rest days
Rest days are crucial! During our rest periods, the body has a chance to adapt. It is when the hypertrophy (muscle growth) occurs, our cells regenerate and injured tissue heals. Planning rest days into your routine can help to reduce the overall feeling of fatigue and may increase your overall running performance. You should never feel that rest days are “lazy” or “wasting time”. They are needed and are equally as important as other components of your training.
3: Don’t get too hung up on footwear
Invest in a pair of trainers that you feel comfortable in. However, don’t worry too much about trying to make your feet 100% “neutral”. “Incorrect footwear” or a “bad foot shape” often get blamed for causing running injuries.
Foot type and footwear have not been found to have a correlational relationship with injury risk.The idea that a neutral foot will prevent injuries is most likely secondary to the marketing of running shoes! Get trainers half a size bigger than your usual size. This gives your toes room to slide forward a little and protects those toe nails! Break your new shoes in gradually – just as you would for any other pair! Go for a walk in them or a short run first.
4. Monitor your step rate
Pain over the front of the knee (patellofemoral pain) is very common with runners due to the repetitive load on the tendon sitting just below the knee cap. One trigger for this can be over-striding. This means taking longer steps when you run so your feet land too far in front of the body. This can increase the shearing and force transmitted through the knee. Whilst this may not be problem for everyone, one way to monitor this is to check your step rate (most activity trackers/watches give you this data). If it is sitting around 175 or less, you could try taking smaller steps when running and trying to increase this step rate by 10%.
5: Strength and conditioning
Strength and conditioning is the process of using exercise prescription to enhance the performance of an individual in their sport, at any level. Introducing strength and conditioning work allows you to focus on targeting the muscle groups used the most in running, to help improve their load tolerance. This can improve our running efficiency and reduce injury risk. These are: Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Calf, Gluteals and core muscles.
Some exercises you could use: Squats, lunges, single leg squats, hip abduction, step ups, deadlifts, dead bug, planks, bird dog and bridges. You could also work on high intensity sessions, Plyometrics (jumping), mobility drills and flexibility.
6: Cross training
Bringing other forms of training into our routine can reduce the repetitive load of running on our joints, whilst keeping our fitness levels up. Vo2 Max is a measurement of fitness, meaning the maximum oxygen an individual can utilise during exercise. During swimming, running and cycling this is thought to transfer, meaning you are training your body to utilise oxygen in a similar way, which ever form of exercise you chose to do.
Try out: Cross trainer, rowing, swimming, walking, versa climber and bike.
7: Make sure previous injuries have fully resolved
Previous injuries have been identified as a key risk factor for injury. It is important you do not return to training until the previous injury has resolved. It is unlikely to improve with the “no pain, no gain” attitude!
If you have recently sustained an injury and are unsure whether you are okay to return, it would be worth arranging an appointment with a Physiotherapist so that we can talk you through a safe and effective return to running.
Water is needed for many processes in the body: nourishing the cells, regulating our body temperature, removal of waste products and maintaining the health of our joints. When we run, we begin to lose water very quickly. It is crucial that we maintain our hydration levels both before and after a run. Ideally you should be aiming for:
500ml 2 hours before a race of long run
150ml just before you run
Try to aim for 2L of water a day in general
Start drinking water very soon after you stop running, there is no specific amount for this but try to keep a 500ml bottle on you and keep sipping slowly and consistently!
9: Look after yourself
Many other factors can indirectly increase our risk of injury. Not getting adequate sleep, being under a lot of stress and not maintaining a healthy and balanced diet are a few factors to consider.
Although running is often used as a way to de-stress, there is a big difference to sweating out a bad day to being exposed to stress and anxiety for a prolonged period. Hormonal and chemical changes mean this may lead to an increased risk of injury.
Look after yourself and your body will thank you for it!