Injury Prevention for Runners
- Posted by Christine
- On May 9, 2021
Now that the weather is getting warmer, some of you may be excited to get back to running!
Running is a great cardiovascular exercise, and a lovely way to spend time outdoors. As running is considered an impact activity, it is
important to make sure our gait and running technique is as mechanically efficient as possible. It is easy to develop repetitive strain issues, as we take 160-180 steps per minute. So, in an average 5km run, we are taking over 6,000 steps. By investing time in injury prevention up front, you will avoid having to take time off to recover.
But how to prevent such injuries? Research is continuously evolving which gives physiotherapists great resources to answer these questions. A study conducted by APA Sports and Exercise Physiotherapists indicated that 60% of running related injuries are attributed to training errors. There are a few factors that need to be considered, in this article we will shed some light on things to keep in mind to help you achieve your goals to the fullest!
Common factors that impact running injuries:
- Sudden change volume, speed/intensity, incline (See our Tissue Tolerance Article)
- Inappropriate footwear, wearing your ‘old shoes’
- Running technique (See our What’s Your Running Cadence? Article)
- Underlying injuries or foot strength deficits
- Returning too soon post injury
How to Prevent Running Injuries:
- Train smart and include rest!
Our body is constantly trying to achieve balance, and tissue repair is no exception. As we train/workout/exercise our tissue breaks down, then during rest it repairs and regenerates so that the same amount of load the next time will be easier. This constant evolving process requires adequate rest.
If you haven’t been running, a gradual return is important, your body needs time to get used to the activity again. This can include creating a weekly plan for increasing the distance by starting at a level where you can run without big setbacks either during or after your run. Monitor your level of stiffness or pain and remember you progress doesn’t always mean adding, sometimes we need to do a little less in order to move forward.
- Strength Training for Runners
A study by Dr. Melinda Smith demonstrates that foot training is beneficial in preventing running-related injuries. A foot muscle strengthening program has been shown to be an effective way to reduce incidence of running injuries in recreational runners. Beyond a local foot strengthening program, general strength exercises are also beneficial. (See Our Foot Strengthening Article for specific exercises)
→ Parameters: When thinking through a strength program, it is important to consider the frequency of your exercises (how many times a day will you complete them), the repetitions (how many times you repeat them in a row) and sets (how many blocks or rounds of the reps), the resistance and load (using a theraband, your body weight, a machine or either), and program duration (for how long in total). Applying the same principle of gradual and progressive load of each of these parameters will ensure that your body’s tolerance will slowly grow over time.
- Stretching or Rolling/Massaging
Its easier said then done but worth the while if you can squeeze in stretches or rolling! Spending even a few minutes a day on mobility and flexibility can make a significant difference. Dynamic stretching, where postures and positions are not held for a prolonged period, are best before activity. It has been shown that static stretching right before activity actually decreases our power. Therefore, static or held stretches are best completed after activity or as a separate event. Find where you tend to get the tightest and focus on those areas first. The common areas include the calf, hamstrings, quads, and hip flexors.
When to Seek Help
If you have tried some or all of these suggestions and are still having a difficult time navigating your training program, please reach out. Whether it is pain that is that is limiting your exercise, or not knowing how to begin, or any other challenge that you think we can help with, please reach out!
We, as physiotherapists, review the literature to understand the best prevention protocols. This knowledge along with an in-depth assessment of your movement and strength, to determine your current capacity, we can help coach you on how to meet your specific goals.
Lastly, answering your questions is a big part of our jobs! Some questions you may have along with our explanations, can shed some light on common topics such as what is the difference between running outside vs. on a treadmill? What is the ‘best running shoe’ and running technique (for you!)? What to do if you already suffered a running injury in the past? What to do if you don’t have time for multiple physiotherapy sessions but want to start running again? When to take a rest week? Etc.
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