Why do so many runners get injured – with problems including runners knee, shin splints, iliotibial band syndrome and plantar fasciitis, just to name a few? With any exercise or sport, there are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to running. Follow our top tips to avoid common running injuries and look forward to a successful running summer.
Many exercise related injuries are caused by repetitive stress on the muscles, tendons and joints. With running this can happen if you are running the same route, same terrain, in the same pair of running shoes and at the same pace over and over again. A great way to mix up your running and avoid repetitive movements that could lead to injury is to:
a) try running on different terrains, with uneven surfaces, different elevations, different turning and pivot points.
b) change your pace and incorporate some slow recovery runs as well as some interval and sprint work into your runs. Not only is this good as a pace change, but interval training can also help to improve your aerobic and anaerobic fitness levels as well as overall running performance.
A recent study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research shows that runners who add three days of resistance training exercises to their weekly program increase their leg strength and enhance their endurance. By increasing your strength, you’re also increasing your joint stability – so it makes sense stronger quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves will take the pressure off the hips, knees and ankle joints when running, helping to avoid injury.
We’ve all heard the saying “prevention is better than cure”, so practice good injury prevention by warming up at the beginning of a run and cooling down and stretching at the end of a run.
Warm up: slowly warm up your run with a slower pace jog for 5-10 minutes, helping to circulate blood around the body, oxygenate muscles, lubricate joints and get your body ready. A recent study also revealed that a dynamic warm up routine can help you perform better. When runners completed dynamic stretches, they were able to go almost two and a half minutes longer before they tired out compared to when they didn’t.
Cool down, stretch, recovery: your muscles need time to slow down and cool down when your run is over, so slow your pace or or walk for five minutes post-run – don’t just dramatically stop! Make sure you include some stretches too and you can also try the foam roller or ice baths for those stubborn muscles that need it.
Whether you’re new to running, have taken a break for a little while or even if you run every week, know your body, listen to it and pace yourself. The 10 percent rule says you should never increase your weekly mileage by more than 10 percent over the previous week. So if you’re running 10 kilometres this week you should only run an extra kilometre the following week. Build your distance and speed up slowly to help avoid overuse and overtraining injuries.
Practicing good running form will carry you to the finish line safely. Have a think about:
a) cadence: know the number of steps you take per minute with both feet by counting them. It should fall above 170 steps per minute to make sure you’re not putting too much stress on your legs.
b) maintain good posture: specifically head over shoulders, shoulders over hips, hips over the mid-foot upon landing and arms swinging directly ahead.
c) pay attention to your stride length: maintain a short, quick stride to avoid reaching forward with your foot, which can lead to over stride injuries.
This sounds like a simple tip, but incorrect footwear can play a huge part in running injuries! Everyone’s feet are different and move in different ways when we run – we might be flat footed, have high arches or pronate. Having poor support from our shoes can lead to hip pain, back pain or knee pain. It can cause shin splints, achilles tendonitis and plantar fasciitis. Speciality running stores or sports shops can help you find the right type of shoe for your foot, so it’s always worth a visit.