Running injuries generally happen from overuse – ie pushing your body harder than it is able for, for too long. Stress or strain can develop somewhere, and because of the repetitive nature of running, this continues to build.
Two thirds of running injuries happen because of training errors, so there is lots that you can do to prevent getting injured. So when we are assessing someone with a running injury, we need to identify possible reasons for that injury developing, so that we don’t fix their injury, but then send them back to the scene of the crime!
The other one third of injuries happen for more physical reasons – e.g. a previous injury not fully recovered, underlying weakness or issue that needs to be specifically addressed (this could be for a number of reasons), and medical reasons to name a few.
All injuries can usually be fixed, but generally the sooner you get them addressed, the quicker the recovery. Running an injury into the ground can lead to a much longer recovery and a lot of frustration!! As physios we want to keep people active and moving, so don’t be afraid that we’ll tell you to stop running – this usually only happens if you have a severe injury and it’s really necessary. However we might suggest some changes you need to make to your training plan.
Below are 6 simple measures you can take to reduce your injury risk.
1.Sleep – I think you’ll agree that most people aren’t getting 8 hours good quality sleep! But if you’re not you are nearly twice as likely to get a running injury. This is because you are not getting ideal recovery for your body’s tissues. So try to get to bed earlier, avoid screen time within 3 hours of bedtime, and finishing exercise within 2 hours of bedtime.
2. Stress – This again can also double recovery risk and recovery time. Acknowledged that many people run for stress management (myself included) so I’m not saying that you avoid exercise when stressed – quite the opposite! But sometimes we have to acknowledge that there are times when we shouldn’t push as hard or for as long – that running plans often need to be adapted to suit what’s going on in our lives and maybe training for that next race might be a step too far when you are already under huge pressure in work/at home. The body can usually give us some warning signs of our system struggling to cope – getting sick, feeling lethargic/demotivated, and getting injured.
3. Strength training- If you are looking for a magic bullet for injury prevention, this is as close as you can get! Strength training has been shown to reduce injury risk by 50%, in addition to improving performance – so it’s a no brainer! However I would argue most runners aren’t doing this, possibly because they don’t know where to start. Hard to give this in a few lines, so I will come back and expand on this over the next few weeks. However if you are familiar with strength training, this would be something good to pick back up 1-2 times per week.
4. Observe the 10% rule – There has been really great research in this area over the past few years. Studies have shown that if you increase your weekly running volume by more than 10%, your injury risk MASSIVELY spikes (a 15% increase brings your injury risk up to 25% from almost 0% at a 10% increase). This again is because the body needs time to adapt and develop to the increased training load.
This rule kicks in once your weekly volume is 8km/week. Also don’t increase your intensity and volume within the same week (so if you decide to start doing a hill session, don’t build mileage in the same week).
5. Be consistent – People who train sporadically are more likely to get injured than those who are hit and miss – ie 5 times a week (once you gradually build to this) is better than once a week.
6. Have variety – varying the surface you run on, and varying your exercise by low impact cross-training (such as swimming, cycling, using the cross-trainer, rowing) can prevent strain building up. This is also good to do if you feel an issue starting to develop – rest the sore part from running for a few days but you can keep exercising.