Around 70% of running injuries are attributed to a training error and almost all of them can be avoided with the right training and recovery strategies! As both a health professional and runner myself, I am in a unique position to help guide you to stay moving and injury free!
Avoid training error
Increasing your mileage by more than 10% per week can put you at risk of injury. Make sure your increases in load are GRADUAL. For those that aren’t familiar with the term mileage – it’s the number of kilometres in total per week. Those of you aiming for endurance for marathon races this year, keep 80% of your runs at a low intensity – meaning these must be SLOW. Then for the other 20% – mix it up with some sprints, hill training or fartlek intervals.
Include Strength and Conditioning in your program!
Strength training should be a part of any training strategy for every runner. Strength reduces overuse injuries by up to 50%! Research has also shown that including strength training in your program can improve running economy by 2-8% and improve 5km performance by 2-5%.
It is suggested that twice a week of heavy slow resistance training is key for runners. This includes heavy compound movements and single-leg loading exercises such as heavy, bent knee calf rises targeting the soleus, single-leg Romanian dead lifts, heavy squats, hip thrusts and toe taps targeting the tibialis anterior. Check here for our favourite gluteal strengthening exercises for runners.
No, you will not gain weight or excessive muscle mass by incorporating strength training into your regime. No, you should not aim for higher reps and lower weight because you are an endurance runner – heavy weights and lower reps is best.
Let’s get one thing straight here, there is no ‘best way’ or optimal way to run. We can SHIFT the load around by changing our technique for example, heel striking may create greater forces acting through the hip and knee whilst a forefoot striker will take more load through their calf and Achilles. The bottom line here is to avoid the extremes. Recent research has found changing your technique too much, too quickly can actually lead to a reduction in your running economy.
Modifying your running technique may only be relevant if you are injured and need to offload a certain tissue, there needs to be a reasoning process. For example, if an individual presents to us with knee pain and is tending to overstride. This over-striding pattern may be increasing load upon the knee joint, so changing cadence may minimise these stressors.
Technique changes we might suggest can include changes to stride length, step rate (cadence), trunk position, arm swing, breathing pattern, foot strike position, push off and pelvic position. Ultimately changes to your running pattern are best guided by you physiotherapist based on an individual biomechanical running assessment, strength testing and your own personal injury history.
Footwear.. well kind of.
Let’s talk footwear. There is no silver bullet here. We need to stop blaming our shoes! No evidence shows that stability shoes reduce the risk of injury in over-pronators. Shoes, however, MAY be relevant when someone is currently injured. However, this is very individualised and requires an assessment from a physiotherapist. The most important piece of advice to follow when buying new running shoes is that new shoes should feel comfortable to run in.
Recovery and sleep
We want to also reach a balance between stress and recovery and maximise fitness whilst minimising fatigue. It is important to match our training load with adequate recovery and build up to it in a way that allows enough time for training adaptation. Better recovery between sessions may lead to reduced fatigue, increased work capacity and improved performance (Bishop et al, 2008). One example of this is where we designate a “de-load” week in our training schedule which is similar to the use of a pre-race taper which I explore here in our marathon blog.
Sleep is also one of the most crucial elements in recovery. In fact, endurance athletes with less than 8 hours of sleep per night are at 1.7 greater risk of injury!
Sleep loss not only impairs sport-specific skill execution and cognition but impairs mood, lowers muscle glycogen stores and can be a huge factor in the development of bone stress injuries. (Finestone and Milgrom 2008).
Physiotherapist Hannah Rasmussen has a passion for helping patients with lower limb and running related injuries! Like to learn more about common injuries in runners? Read more here
Our team love to help YOU with your health. We offer one on one consultations, tailored small group classes, hydrotherapy and post-operative care! Would you like simply to speak to one of our expert physiotherapy team members to find out if we can help you?