Up to 80% of injuries occur due to training error – what can we do to minimise this risk?
Training error can include: the rate we increase our mileage, how we plan our training program and how frequently we decide to run.
So what can we do…?
Progress distance gradually and mix up your training!
A study was carried out in 2014 by Saragiotto and colleagues, which involved asking a group of 95 recreational runners what they thought the most common cause of running injuries were. The majority correctly identified that over training contributed to the risk of developing injury. One relevant comment from a participant was “Running excites me, when I start to run, you don’t want to stop, your body wants more so you end up overloading your body and get injured”.
Very often, we see runners who associate excessive training with something positive, rather than being potentially detrimental. This means they may fail to adopt the necessary precautions to prevent over training. It’s easy to get into a habit of “getting the miles in” and spending a lot of time thinking about the numbers. This may be sustainable for a time, but it can lead to ignoring those “niggles” that may later turn into an injury that may stop you being able to run.
Listed below is some advice on trying to reduce injury and run happy!
1: The 10% Rule
The 10PR is based on the principle that you try not to increase your weekly mileage by more than 10% from the previous week.
This may seem like a slow process but it encourages you to leave enough time to train for a race safely. It allows the load on the tendons, joints and muscles to be gradual. This means these structures have time to adapt and change in response to the training we undergo.
For example, if you start with running 10 miles a week, within 8 weeks this will have increased to around 20 miles. Most training programs for a race are often a minimum of 8 weeks. The 10PR is often the reason underpinning this time frame.
That being said, the 10PR may be more applicable to those clocking up high levels of weekly mileage. If you are training for a 5km or 10km, you may find a range of 20-25% increase is comfortable to do.
The key is to listen to your body and keep an eye out for any niggles that begin to set in when you run, after you run or even into the next day. Although not severe at the time, these are often our warning signs something may not be right.
2: Rest days
This follows on nicely from the over training risk. Rest days are crucial!
It can take our soft tissue around 48 hours to recover from a particularly strenuous bout of training. This is important to remember when doing your longer runs. The next day, it may be good to either rest completely or engage in some recovery exercise e.g. walking, cycling or swimming.
During our rest periods, the body has a chance to heal and adapt, ready for the next challenge.
Planning rest days into your routine can help to reduce the overall feeling of fatigue and may increase your overall running performance.
You should never feel that rest days are “lazy” or “wasting time”. They are needed and they are just as important as any other component of your training.
3: Don’t get too hung up on footwear
In the study mentioned before, most participants thought “incorrect footwear” or a “bad foot shape” were to blame for causing running injuries. However, foot type and footwear have not been found to have a correlational relationship with injury risk. I think the desire to have a perfectly neutral foot and this relationship with preventing injuries is secondary to the marketing of running shoes over the last few years!
That being said, you should invest in a good pair of trainers that you feel comfortable in. However, don’t worry too much about trying to make your feet 100% “neutral”. If you have never had symptoms whilst running and you are told you “over-pronate”, it doesn’t necessarily mean you will get an injury. Your foot position is normal for you and shouldn’t need changing.
Aim to get trainers half a size bigger than your usual size. This gives your toes room to slide forward a little and protects those toe nails!
Whatever running shoes you decide to go for – break your new shoes in gradually – just as you would for any other pair! Go for a walk in them or a short run. Once you know they are comfortable, increase the distance.
4: Strength and conditioning
Strength and conditioning is the process of using exercise prescription to enhance the performance of an individual in their sport. It is not just for the elite athletes and can be used by recreational runners and those training for upcoming races.
The ability for the body to be able to withstand the high impact demands of running is also dependant on the load tolerance throughout the body. The better the load tolerance, the less likely you may be to get an injured. Introducing strength and conditioning work around 2-3 times a week (or less to begin with, don’t worry!) allows you to focus on targeting the muscle groups used the most in running. These are:
– Back extensors
Some exercises you could use:
– Single leg squats
– Hip abduction
– Step ups
– Bird dog
– Dead bug
This can also include working on high intensity sessions, mobility drills and flexibility. All of which can help to improve our running efficiency, increase the load our body can tolerate and may help to reduce the risk of injury!
5: Cross training
Runners love running, we love running so much that we tend to run and not much else! Running is a very repetitive sport, most injuries arising from overuse. In order to look after our body, incorporating other forms of training into our routine can be the key to helping prevent injuries.
Vo2 Max is the measurement of the maximum oxygen an individual can utilise during exercise. During swimming, running and cycling this is thought to transfer, meaning you are training your body to utilise oxygen in a similar way, which ever form of exercise you chose to do. Switching up the training still keeps your fitness levels up, but your joints get a break from the repetitive high impact of running. Try out:
– Cross trainer
– Rowing machine
– Uphill power walking
– Versa Climber
6: Make sure previous injuries have fully resolved
Previous injuries have been identified as a key risk factor for injury. It is important you do not return to training until the previous injury has resolved.
If you have recently sustained an injury and are unsure whether you are okay to return, it would be worth arranging an appointment with a Physiotherapist so that we can talk you through a safe and effective return to running.
If training is introduced gradually, the previously injured tissue or bone will adapt at a rate that minimises the risk of damage and return of injury. However, you need to ensure you are safe to do so first.
We all know the importance of staying hydrated – our body is 60% water after all! It is needed for many processes in the body: nourishing the cells, regulating our body temperature, removal of waste products and maintaining the health of our joints.
When we run, we begin to lose water very quickly. It is crucial that we maintain our hydration levels both before and after a run.
Ideally you should be aiming for:
– 500ml 2 hours before a race of long run
– 150ml just before you run
– Try to aim for 2L of water a day in general
– Start drinking water very soon after you stop running, there is no specific amount for this but try to keep a 500ml bottle on you and keep sipping slowly and consistently!
8: Look after yourself
Many other factors can indirectly increase our risk of injury. Not getting adequate sleep, being under a lot of stress and not maintaining a healthy and balanced diet are a few factors to consider.
Although running is often used as a way to manage stress, there is a big difference to sweating out a stressful day to being consistently exposed to stress and anxiety for a prolonged period. Hormonal and chemical changes means this can lead to an increased risk of injury.
Look after yourself and your body will thank you for it. A healthy body = A happy runner!!