Injury prevention and running

As promised, here is the second instalment on injury prevention and running.  Now, I need to stress that this is only a summary of my thoughts, experiences as a Sports Physiotherapist for the past 9 years and from my numerous of years of university education (9 in total… ouch!, well 7 full time and 2 part time).

Yesterday I discussed the role of intrinsic variables (within you as a runner) that can contribute to injury and how critical it is as a runner to understand where your shortfalls are…. we all have them!  No one is 100% perfect…. even the elite runners out there.

Now let’s switch our focus to extrinsic variables (external to you as an athlete) with injury prevention and running.  Now there are so many of these and each particular athlete has a unique contribution of these factors.  Some of these include the following:

  • Training volume, frequency and intensity
  • Recovery
  • Sleeping habits
  • Eating habits
  • Training background
  • Shoes
  • Environment and weather, including running terrain
  • Competition program or event schedules

Now I don’t need to tell you how to suck eggs and tell you that you must gradually build up your running program.  Most runners understand this… however most runners fail to understand the role of recovery, sleeping well and eating well.  This will be the focus of the blog.

I want to deviate off track here for a second and talk about a very common scenario that I face as a physio.  Running brings a very high risk of injury to those new to the sport.  Many launch into training programs, commonly downloaded from the internet, as they are amazed by the endorphin high generated from running.  Wow, I feel great, this running gig is awesome!

I want to be very clear that you need to be strong to run!  People coming from a sedentary background… need to respect the sport of long distance running!  So this brings me back to some points that I raised yesterday.  Without activity the body becomes de-conditioned, whether this be due to being too busy at work to run for some months, having a baby, or just losing motivation for a few years and then jumping back into it.  The mind is going to be willing… but you need to respect the fact that the body has adapted to your current lifestyle… that is if you sit in front of a computer for 6-8 hours a day then that is what you have conditioned it to do.

Many people getting into the sport for the first time commonly need to correct many internal weak links that lead to poor form and technique and it does not take a rocket scientist to realise that the longer that you intend on running, the more you need to focus on these weak links, as I mentioned yesterday.  It kills me as a physio when I treat someone for persistent injuries from running when they are new to the sport and they just want to run.

Commonly these people have specific reasons behind their continued injury concerns… Now I am generalising here but usually they need to bring back the km’s for a while, get strong, correct their weak links and lose some weight if you need to through other forms of cardio exercise such as bike, swimming, boxing, up temp walking or circuit training in the gym… burn the calories through this manner then reload the running once they are stronger!  You must respect running…. I see 10-12 times more runners for overuse injuries at the clinic then cyclists…

So lets get back on track… I want to focus on a few areas that many endurance athletes overlook when it comes to injury prevention.  Let’s make some points on sleep, recovery and your diet.

  • Sleep is essential to allow the body to adapt to the training that you are undertaking.  The more pre midnight hours sleep that you get the better!  Despite all the research that has occurred on compression garments, ice baths, contrast baths and factors such as massage… by far the best and most important factor in your recovery is sleep!  Aim for 7-8 hours a night and especially when you are training hard.
  • Eat healthy foods…. It amazes me how many runners think that they can eat anything they want due to the training that they are doing.  The food that you put into your body is it’s fuel.  Eat more fruit and vegetables, try to minimise processed foods and make better choices… this is a HUGE topic and one that I only want to mention briefly.
  • Ensure that you get good quality protein into your body within 20-30 mins post quality training sessions and long runs.  After the session is over your body starts repairing.  Amino acids (building blocks of protein) are the structures that aid this process.  Personally I use Musashi N Force 2… there are many products out there… Think about it, you are training in order to force your body to adapt to become fitter, stronger, faster… your body needs the building blocks in order to do this.  To allow new capillaries to grow to the muscles, more mitochondria (energy factories in cells) to be produced and for your heart to work more efficiently by reducing the heart rate and improving the stroke volume (blood pumped out with each contraction) muscle cells need to adapt… protein enables this to happen!
  • Warm up and cool down properly… many runners go out way to hard in the warm up and risk injury and also reduce your ability to push hard in the main section of the run or at the back end of the run!  Remember anyone can run hard at the start… it is at the back end that really tests you out!  Can you hold form and pace when you are hurting and the finish line is approaching?
  • Think about what you are doing… become a thinking runner… focus on your form and technique… is your cadence high?… how is your foot landing?…

So I think that will do for now… It is a massive topic and I could expand on other areas such as training volumes, frequencies and intensities very easily… but I also wanted the blog to be of a reasonable length to read haha!

As usual, any questions then ask away!

Happy running!


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