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Prevent Running Injuries in 2019

by Carmen Andrews - Physiotherapist

Prevent Running Injuries in 2019
Injury and time off the road. No runners like to think about it. But as a runner the stats are against you. US based studies show between 75% and 90% of runners will be forced to lose time on the road due to pain or injury each year. So how does one go about preventing injury?!!

There are few facts (research-backed and undisputed) about successful injury prevention for runners. But what we do know, makes sense:
- Following a sound training program significantly reduces risk of injury (but is not a guarantee, due to other factors such as sleep deprivation, stress, sickness…and sometimes plain bad luck).
- A large study that followed serial uninjured runners showed that they have a softer landing than injured runners. This says a lot for paying attention to your running technique and cross training program.

Let’s look how you can use these concepts to your advantage.

1. Stick to a Reasonable Training Program
A training program is all about controlling load, and gradually increasing fitness over time. Why load? Running puts load on your body through repetitive strain and impact.

Changes in load from increased mileage, increased speed, or simply volume over time can cause failure of structures in the body. These failures are usually called ‘overuse’ injuries but could just as easily be called ‘over-load’ injuries. Training programs are crafted to mitigate injury risk, while getting you into great running form.

Good training programs challenge the many aspects that make you a better runner. They include specific training to improve your energy conversion systems, cardiovascular system, bone-muscle-tendon (musculo-skeletal) structures, and improve your movement efficiency. Truly great programs will also focus on your brain-body communication…both mental tenacity and knowing when to back off and give your body rest.

Here are a few things to consider when choosing a program:
- Be honest about your starting point, considering both your long-term and short-term history of running. If you haven’t run in over 3 months you may need base training before increasing speed, adding hill work or upping distance significantly.
- You can’t jump from 2 runs to 6 training sessions a week, even if it’s a ‘starter’ program.
- It must suit your lifestyle to allow for consistent training and rest. CONSISTENCY is KING.
- It should allow for cross training, and/or strength work. Cross training might not give you a runners’ high, but it will make your runs better and your highs even higher! (more on this below)
- If choosing a program for a specific event, get started on it far enough in advance to allow for the unforeseen. External factors such as flu, work, and poor recovery can wreak havoc with a well-intended program.

Remember: Things outside of running training influence load! Changes in shoes (or other equipment), lifestyle changes (especially sleep, diet and stress!), or other exercise that you’ve added to your program.

2. Use Cross Training to Improve Resilience and Performance
It is through cross training that you improve your energy conversion systems, cardiovascular system, musculo-skeletal structures, and improve your movement efficiency. This translates into making you tougher…and faster!

The right kind of cross training toughens tendons, ligaments, fascia and muscles.

And it gives you more training days. How? Well, the quicker recovering muscle, cardiovascular and energy conversion systems can all work at full steam again, while the relative rest of being off the road gives the slower-recovering bones and tendons the necessary time to restore and strengthen.

This translates into a significant decrease in overuse injuries!!

Cross training should be specific to your individual needs (both physical and mental) and be something you love doing. Consider things like yoga, Pilates, a tailored gym program, technique drills to improve your landing, including a mix of trail running, or a program in the convenience of your own home…

Your Physio can help you to identify areas with room for improvement and tailor a cross training plan that will minimise risk of injury.

3. Get the Most Out of Your Training…With Good Quality Rest and Recovery
Rest and recovery allow time for adaption…producing a training effect! In other words, skip this step, and not only are you more likely to get injured, but you also won’t reap the best rewards from all of that training you’re putting in!

So how does recovery reduce injury risk? You know that training places stress (aka…load!) on the different systems of the body, causing micro-injury. Your body responds by strengthening and adapting the systems. Remodeling bones, preparing your heart to circulate more blood per minute…and so on. Train again too soon, and your body hasn’t had time to do this yet. Makes it easy to see how injuries and training overload can happen doesn’t it?!

Practical tips to get the most out of recovery days:
- Light days should be light so that hard days can be hard.
- A recovery day should keep you moving, often working on mobility, without raising your heart rate too high.
- Guidelines vary…but aim for a HR under 60% HRM (to 70% HRM at the outside).
- Ideas you could try: restorative yoga, gentle Pilates, gentle walking, gentle swimming…

Please remember these three tips are general advice for uninjured runners. If you have specific concerns, consult your Physio or biokineticist for advice specific to your condition.

Running performance depends on cardiovascular fitness, strength, and skill. Working on each of these will help to keep you injury free and running well in 2019. Happy running!!

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About the author: Carmen A is mom to a very busy toddler, she has a love for the outdoor life and has competed at a high level in endurance adventure sports (particularly in running and mountain bike stage races). She is passionate about running and getting moms back to running after pregnancy. You can make a booking HERE to see her to work out your injury prevention strategy.

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