Running is a terrific activity that we should all strive to be doing for the longevity of our bones, joints, tendons and muscles. With it being pre-season for winter sports and predominately nice weather, running is an appealing option for individuals to enjoy the fresh air and achieve their fitness goals. Below, I have compiled my top 4 tips on how to remain injury free when running.
Tip 1: Make a record of each of your runs.
Free to install applications like Strava are a fantastic way for novice and experienced runners alike to track the distance, speed and frequency of their runs. This means there is no excuse for overtraining. Overuse injuries like Achilles tendinopathy, calf strains, shin splints and patellofemoral joint syndrome, among others, are all closely related to running loads. Having a record of all of your runs allows you to gradually increase the distance, speed and frequency of runs to avoid placing excessive demands on your body. To stay injury free when running, it is recommended to limit weekly increases in running volume to < 10%.
Tip 2: Do a warm up prior to running consisting of stretches and a light jog.
Why are warm ups so critical you ask? Warm ups allow a chance for our body to ‘wake up’, including our heart, which responds to exercise by increasing the rate at which it beats and supplies our muscles with blood. Simple, comfortable stretches encourage activation of muscles and ‘lengthen’ or rather alter the sensitivity of our muscles, reducing feelings of tightness.
Here are a few examples of stretches for running below.
Dosage – Complete 2 x 10 repetitions
Instructions – Swing leg forwards and backwards feeling for a stretch in both your thigh and hamstrings.
Dosage -Complete 2 x 10 repetitions
Instructions – Either lean on the ground or on a bench. Drive one heel to the ground while relaxing and bending the other knee. Swap side each time.
Dosage -Complete 2 x 10 repetitions.
Instructions – Swing leg away and then across your body, feeling for a stretch in your groin.
Tip 3: Do strength training for your legs!!
Did you know one of our calf muscles (soleus) produces forces of up to 8x our body weight when running? This means that doing regular strength training for our lower limb, particularly the calf, is essential to cope with the demands of running. If we build up the strength of our calf muscles, they will become more resilient and efficient at producing the large forces required of them during running. See below for an easy strength exercise for your soleus to help you build strong calves and remain injury free when running.
Seated calf raises:
Dosage – Complete 3 x 10.
Instructions – Complete by slowly raising and then lowering your heel. Can rest weights on your thigh to increase the difficulty as shown below.
Tip 4: Listen to your body.
If you are feeling tired, hungry and dehydrated, these are signs your body is letting you know it doesn’t feel like going for a really vigorous run. Research has shown that young athletes who consistently achieve more than 8hrs of sleep reduce their risk of injury by approximately 60%! While it’s normal to have days where you feel more lethargic and dehydrated than others, it’s important to not push yourself too much on these days – save that for the days you feel fresh. Key message -> listen and look after your body to remain injury free when running.
Barton, C. (2018). Managing RISK when treating the injured runner with running retraining, load management and exercise therapy. Physical Therapy in Sport, 29, 79-83. Retrieved from: https://www-sciencedirect-com.ezproxy.flinders.edu.au/science/article/pii/S1466853X1730514X#!
O’Neill, S., Barry, S., & Watson, P. (2019). Plantarflexor strength and endurance deficits associated with mid-portion Achilles tendinopathy: The role of soleus. Physical Therapy in Sport, 37, 69-76. Retrieved from: https://www-sciencedirect-com.ezproxy.flinders.edu.au/science/article/pii/S1466853X18305017
Seshadri, D., Thom, M., Harlow, E., Gabbett, T., & Voos, J. (2020). Wearable Technology and Analytics as a Complementary Toolkit to Optimize Workload and to Reduce Injury Burden. Frontiers in Sports and Active Living, 2, 630576. Retrieved from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/348657810_Wearable_Technology_and_Analytics_as_a_Complementary_Toolkit_to_Optimize_Workload_and_to_Reduce_Injury_Burden
Written by Sam Lancaster.
Physiotherapist at myPhysioSA Payneham and Eastwood with a special interest in managing running injuries.