Newsletter 2: Tips on how to avoid running injuries
10 ways on avoiding running injuries (Duncan Mason)
Now we are hitting the winter season this is the time of year when traditionally distance runners will begin to build their endurance base so that they can perform well in the summer season or build up to a spring marathon.Winter miles give summer smiles!
Naturally as you build your mileage you at risk of suffering overuse injuries here are a few tips to build that winter base without getting injured.
Intensity of training
Make sure that you don’t train as intensely as you do in the summer season, extra mileage without dropping the intensity (namely the speed at which you run/ perform interval repetitions) will lead to overload of joints and muscles, which could in turn give rise to injury. Make sure you also don’t train too intensely on consecutive days, not only will you risk injury, but also your immune system may struggle to overcome the load of a hard session. An easier day is in order so that you don’t succumb to illness.
Volume of training
Particularly when returning from a break or an injury, it is important to build your total mileage slowly, it is recommended that you record weekly mileage covered and that you don’t increase this volume by more than 5 miles per week or 10% of the total volume whichever is larger.
Enviroment - avoid harder surfaces where possible
In the winter, generally athletes train performing higher mileages, with the inability often to run in daylight. If too much mileage is performed on harder surfaces this too can lead to injury. Sometimes this problem is unavoidable. It is recommended that the longer runs are done off road at the weekend to reduce the load on the soft tissues and joints.
Running can be unforgiving, the impact loads taken through the legs and spine can accumulate to huge levels during longer runs. As we are trying to train the aerobic system, alternatives that are low impact or no impact can allow the runner to improve their aerobic fitness for example biking, swimming or cross training.
Performing running drills a few times a week can help train the movement patterns of running, improving strength and efficiency of the lower limb musculature. This in turn will improve foot contact, reduce foot contact time, whilst potentially reducing injury rate and improving running efficiency.
Winter volume can result in burning a lot of calories and damage to soft tissues, it is therefore necessary to provide the body with ample energy stores through adequate carbohydrate content. Protein is essential too in order to rebuild muscles and other soft tissue structures. Adequate rehydration is important and should not be ignored just because it is winter. If diet is inadequate the risk of injury is greatly increased.
Do not be afraid to rest a rest day, or an easier week every month, or a rest week at the end of a training block. Rest can work wonders to allow the bodies tissues to recover, immune system to be enhanced or the mind refreshed before the next block of hard training.
Sports physio and sports massage is an important adjunct to training, I recommend that runners have a massage monthly, this will increase mobility of tissues, improve the circulation replenishing glycogen and remove waste products. It is a bit like taking your car to the garage for a service. Once you’ve had your tyre pressures checked and your oil changed you'll be flying again!
Stretching maintains tissue length and ensures joints move through their full range to enable normal running function. Core exercises are aimed at enhancing overall posture and trunk strength this will improve overall gait pattern and may improve efficiency of performance. These types of exercises should be performed regularly through the training week. For more information consult a qualified athletic coach or therapist.
Book in for a running gait analysis at the Running Performance clinic. Our state of the art running biomechanics motion capture system will identify anomalies in your running style which we will attempt to correct by teaching you a bespoke exercise programme. This has helped many athletes to overcome long term injury problems and go on to improve their performance. www.runningperformanceclinic.com
Duncan Mason is a Sports Physiotherapist, who is the clinical lead for Athlete Matters clinics in Cheadle, Worsley and Preston. He has worked with many GB athletes in his work at these clinics and with GB teams at major championships and holding camps. He is also head coach at Salford Harriers juniors and a former athlete, having run 65 minutes for half marathon and a 2:21 marathon. He also has a consultancy role within the Running Performance Clinic at Salford University as part of his role as a Lecturer there.
What does current research tell us about running injuries?
Research-based estimates of the prevalence of running injuries varies, with some studies suggesting runners will, over average, experience an injury after every 500 hours of running. This compares to other studies which suggest a much higher rate of 16 injuries per 500 hours of running. Given these relatively high rates of injury, it is of paramount importance that you monitor the factors which could predispose you to injury and understand whether your particular style of running could be putting you at risk of a running-related injury.
Biomechanical research aimed at understanding running injury is carried out in a gait laboratory and compares the characteristics of injured runners with those who run pain free. These studies have identified specific movement patterns which, by putting increased stress on particular anatomical structures, may lead to running injuries. For example, excessive foot pronation has been suggested to overstress the knee and Achilles tendon and subsequently been identified as a risk factor for Achilles and knee pain.
More recent research has looked into movements of the pelvis, the spine and also tried to establish whether a forefoot strike pattern could reduce the risk of injury compared to a rearfoot strike pattern. This research has shown that people who run with an unstable pelvis (which drops to side during the stance phase of running), have a higher risk of developing patellofemoral pain (pain behind the knee cap). Interestingly, research has also shown that running with a forefoot strike pattern can reduce the forces on the knee and there is some evidence so show that this may lead to reduced incidence of knee pain.
At the University of Salford, we are comparing injured recreational runners with non-injured recreational runners and also with elite/high performing runners. Our research is starting to show that elite runners have a running style which minimises the risk of injury and this idea is supported by other research with has found low injury rates in elite runners. This research is feeding into our running gait analysis service and, by comparing client’s running style with that of our elite database, we are able to provide an individualised programme which can help reduce the risk of injury.
The University of Salford Running Performance Clinic
The University of Salford’s running performance clinic was set up at the start of 2014 as a spin out from research aiming to characterise the movement patterns of elite athletes.
The service is open to anyone and offers clients a full 3D gait analysis of the legs, pelvis and spine whilst running. In addition to the gait analysis, clients undergo a thorough clinical assessment, designed to assess strength, flexibility and muscle balance.
Following the gait assessment, client’s running patterns are compared to a database of elite athletes. This comparison is documented in a personalised report which also describes the clinical findings and identifies any problem areas which could be improved with exercises/running drills.
The client then receives an individualised training programme which is followed for 4-8 weeks, after which clients return to the university for a follow up assessment.
If you are interested in learning more about this service, then please visit: