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Injury prevention in runners

Injuries are the worst part of running or apparently trying to get down the stairs the morning after a marathon! Always on the edge of over or under doing it, particularly when training towards a set goal, and in particular when starting out in the world of running. Combine all of that with life and work stresses and it can often feel like a ticking time bomb for something that we all want to be enjoyable.

Evidence shows that the most common predictor for an injury, is a history of a previous injury, with as many as 80% of us sustaining an injury at some point, while we curse those around us that seem to effortlessly avoid injury and run off into the distance. So what can we do to limit the chances of this?

This post is aimed to help you to think about ways you can reduce the likelihood of an injury and keep that consistent running going.

So firstly, what is an injury? Running injuries are injuries that occur to muscles, ligaments, tendons, bones or joints as a direct result of the repetitive motion of running. They are generally known as overuse or overload injuries and can occur for a variety of reasons. They are different to injuries that occur from a trip or fall when running, resulting in acute trauma, we don’t have any control over the prevention of them.

How can we avoid injury?

  • Correct footwear

  • Correct size/fit, correct type for the terrain, surface and distance you are running and the appropriate support for you.

  • Adequate warm up and cool down

  • Ensure you add this into your workouts to avoid unnecessary injuries.

  • Good running technique

  • Ask your friends or coaches to look at your running, it should look balanced from one side to the other and relaxed too. A good coach will be able to help you improve this. Considerate of the running surface

  • Can you change the surface you run on, alternating where you run is good for your body and also challenges it in different ways. Constantly pounding the pavements can put a lot of unnecessary load on your body.

  • Strong enough for the task in hand

Have you built up to what you are trying to achieve?

  • Add in circuits, core and strength exercises can really benefit your running and reduce the risk of injury.

  • Mobility and balance – through the required range. If you spend all day sat down, do you do anything to counteract it as opposed to just running?

  • Symmetrical - If you are not, it will often add extra strain to another part of your body

  • Adhering to an appropriate training load - It’s only a good plan if it is aimed at you. Jumping into a plan that is beyond your current ability or ‘what you used to do’ is not the best approach. Always consider where you are at this moment in time and build from there.

  • Adequate recovery - From training, from work, from life. Recovery is where adaptation and progression takes place.

  • Recovery run speed is kept slow - Don’t over train – your runs between your harder sessions should be easy enough to have a full conversation. This will allow you to work harder in your effort sessions.

  • A good diet - This will ensure you are fuelled adequately for the training, recovery properly to allow your body to adapt and ensure your body has all the nutrients in needs to function properly. For more advice speak to Alice.

  • Weight - Extra weight is not only harder work but it will put more strain on the body too. Good nutrition and exercise can help address this.

  • Underweight – this can be equally as detrimental and give you less capacity to recover and absorb the training load. Find a weight you work well at, it will be different for everyone.

  • Adequate sleep - To allow your body to adapt and recover

  • Consider stress both physical and mental - Stress releases a hormone called cortisol, your body will have a saturation point, therefore managing the stress you place on it is important. Don’t be surprised if you find the runs harder after a stressful week at home or work. So picking an easier run over a session is sometimes the best thing to do.

When you are planning your training consider the following:

What is the objective of the session/run?

  • Everything for a reason

  • Progressive – is this session an appropriate jump from previous sessions?

  • Is it relevant to the event/distance you are training for?

  • Have you giving yourself a big enough time scale to train for the event?

  • Have you allowed movement in your programme?

    • For niggles

    • Work/life balance

    • Just for being tired and needing a day off

    • Fitrwoman - Hormone level based training approach for women to help optimise their training based on hormone levels

    • Have you built easy weeks into your training programme? This is important for adaption and to give you a mental break too. One approach is 2 weeks:1 week (Hard/easy)

Look out for warning signs in yourself and those around you.

  • Overtraining

  • Tired

  • Irritable

  • Poor sleep (broken and insomnia)

  • Poor appetite

  • Taking longer to recover

  • Struggling to get heart rate up

  • Increase frequency of colds and illness

  • Increase in niggles and injuries

The picture below shows two ways of training

  • The green represents adequate recovery and a good training balance and an improvement in your fitness

  • The red - overtraining, ever reducing outcomes and in the end an injury, lack of motivation as you are working hard and not seeing the improvement you would expect.

Remember everyone is different and some of you may need an extra day between runs to recover. Either rest or use cross-training to help.

Good luck and remember to seek advice early and use reliable sources.


Post in the comments below with things you have learnt through your running years that you wished you had known earlier.

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