My big 3 tips for reducing injury risk in runners.
Running has quickly become one of the highest participation sports/fitness activities in the UK, with Sports Marketing Surveys inc listing running as the second highest participation sport in the UK, only behind swimming. Further to this, England Sport reports over 2 million people in England get out to turn the legs over at least once a week.
These stats are unsurprising really, there’s probably no simpler way to get a great cardio work out than dusting off the trainers and hitting the road/path/track/trail. Add on to this the supportive and social environments offered by running clubs and the wonderful Parkruns that happen every Saturday morning around the globe, it’s easy to see why running is so popular.
Despite it’s popularity and simplicity, running has one of the highest rates of injury of any physical activity. Runners World reports up to 80% of runners will sustain an injury whilst running every year (Gent et al, 2007) and a study released just this year showed that almost 50% of the runners surveyed were currently injured, with 86% of them continuing to run despite it causing pain! (Linton & Valentin, 2018).
Taking all of this into consideration I think it’s extremely important to look at ways to reduce injuries in runners so that you can keep experiencing all of the benefits running has to offer. To help to keep you out on the road, here are my big 3 tips for reducing your injury risk whilst running;
1. Manage your loads
2. Rest and recover
3. Get stronger
LOAD MANAGEMENT ⚖️♀️
Probably the leading reason runners come to see me in the clinic is that they have done too much! This is usually either running too many days in a row or ramping up the distances/intensity of their running very quickly!
The other side of load management is the non-physical loading, such as work stress, family stress or lack of sleep. As Running Coach Mark Yabsley says “you take everything out with you on your run”, sometimes it’s easy to overlook these factors when thinking about our training load. Check out Mark on twitter @equinox_coach.
Here are some simple ways to manage your loads to reduce injury risk;
Have a plan for each run – AND STICK TO IT.
Plan what distance and intensity you want to run e.g. if it’s a long slow distance run, run it at your long slow distance pace and only go for the planned distance – even if you’re feeling REALLY GOOD at the end of the run.
(thanks to @runningbe on instagram for the funny )
Don’t play catch up
If for some reason you miss a session (e.g. had to work late, poor nights sleep and could get up), don’t feel you need to play catch up for that session but running longer distances later in the week.
Do not increase your running/exercise load by greater than 10% per week
This can be measured by distances ran if you are just running or by RPE if you are doing other training (I will explain RPE in a future blog post)
TAKE REST DAYS!!! – including off other forms of training
By far the biggest mistake I see in runners is not taking rest days
Beginners – 2-3 per week, Intermediates – 2 per week, Advanced – 1 per week
Allows your body to dissipate built up fatigue and for your tissues to be ready to continue training
Every 4-5 weeks week drop training load by 10-15%
Week after return to training load of week before de-load
REST AND RECOVERY ♀️
Sleep is when our body does most of it’s recovering/healing
You may need to vary the number of hours sleep you get depending on your training load (e.g. in the lead up to a marathon event – increase the hours of sleep you get at night or take a nap during the day)
As highlighted in the previous section, load isn’t all about the amount of physical work/training you are doing, lifestyle and emotional stress also plays a big role!
Utilisation of stress management is a key part of staying injury free.
Headspace app – this is a great app to use for some guided meditation. The introductory course of 10 guided sessions are free too!
Eat & Rehydrate
Refuel after a run – protein, carbs and good fats
Water and electrolytes
Have I stressed this point enough yet?
GETTING STRONGER ♀️♂️
“Why is getting stronger good for my running? Won’t that make me bulky and slow?”, good question this one and one I get asked often!
The main reason strength training is good for runners is that it conditions the tissues of the lower limb to deal with the forces being put through them, therefore reduces the risk of injury!
And as for getting “too bulky and slow” – the amount of strength work I would recommend to runners (2 sessions/week) and the amount of running you are doing wont allow your body to build big masses of muscle – so don’t stress about looking like The Incredible Hulk whilst trying to get around Parkrun.
“Just how much force does my body have to deal with when running?” I hear you ask well here are some stats to highlight why your body needs some strength to run;
⚓️ Ground Reaction Force = 2.5 – 3x body weight per step
e.g. 80kg runner who averages 500 foot contacts per mile
80kg x 2.5 = 200kg
200kg x 500steps = 100,000kg of load per mile!
⚓️Soleus muscle (bottom part of your calf) can be under 7x your body weight worth of force each step
⚓️Torque around hip during running is up to 10x body weight each step
Other advantages of strength training for runners are;
Allows you to put more force into the ground = running faster
Changes to your nervous system makes running more efficient and therefore reduces fatigue!
♀️♂️MY SIMPLE GUIDELINES FOR STRENGTHENING FOR RUNNERS ♀️
Here are my simple tips on how to integrate some strength training into your training program to reduce your injury risk and avoid overload!
What exercises should I do?
Exercises should target the key regions of Glutes, Calves, Quads, Adductors and Core. This table shows some of the common exercise I will give to runners;
Keep an eye on my “resources” section for videos of these exercises
How many exercise per session should I use?
3-5 exercises per session
How much of each of these exercises should I do?
3 sets of 8-12 reps
How often during the week should I strength train?
2 x week
When in the training week should I strength train?
1 x on a short run day, 1 x on a non- run/x-training day
So, there you have it, my big 3 tips for reducing your injury risk whilst running! If you have any further question about this or do unfortunately find yourself injured and need some physio please feel free to contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling Move Clinic, Chiswick on 020 8994 8328
HAPPY RUNNING! ♀️♂️
Sports Marketing Surveys – http://www.sportsmarketingsurveysinc.com/uks-running-population-reaches-remarkable-10-5m-says-sports-marketing-surveys-inc/
England Sport (via BBC) – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-30036800
Gent et al, 2007 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2465455/
Linton & Valentin, 2018 – https://www.jsams.org/article/S1440-2440(18)30179-8/abstract