Exact figures vary but roughly 80% of runners get injured every year. Technology keeps advancing but there doesn't seem to be a corresponding reduction in the rate of injury.
So what can people do to reduce their risk?
There are many ways to do so but here are some simple tips to get started.
1. Listen To Your Body - Pain is a message from the brain and we should listen to it. There are many types of pain and experience helps us get better at identifying what might be ok to “push through” and what might require stopping and seeking professional help.
For instance a muscle that feels “tight” might not require a complete halt to your running and can probably be addressed by a little self massage, reduced training load and a few good night’s sleep. Whereas throbbing pain in a joint, ligament or tendon might require further investigation by a professional. The guys at Body Rehab in Staveley get our recommendation.
A general rule of thumb would be to reduce volume and intensity and monitor the symptoms. If it improves, you are on the right track. If it worsens it’s time to get help. It’s worth remembering that running places greater mechanical stress on the body no matter how well conditioned you are so it’s normal to occasionally get some niggles.
Cycling, rowing, cross country skiing etc. are non impact activities and as such don’t place the same load on the system which is why elite people in those sports usually have a much greater training volume than their running counterparts.
2. Structure Your Training- When getting started, it’s important to gradually increase volume (time/distance spent running) and intensity (the level of effort expended). Don’t make big jumps in either of these and instead play it safe until you have a better idea of what you can currently tolerate.
Keeping a record of how much training you do per week can make it easier to identify when you have done too much and it has caused injury, illness or feeling too tired to train. For more experienced runners they can probably increase their mileage quicker than the 10% per week that many prescribe when in the base building phase of a season.
But for those new to running that 10% is a good guide. It is very important to include plenty of easier runs or rest days during the week. Although it will depend on the individual, even elite runners have plenty of easy days to recover from the harder sessions. A general rule of thumb is to try to keep harder efforts 2 - 3 days apart. So if you go to your club’s harder hill rep session on a Monday night, the next day needs to be something very easy like a 30 minute jog where you find it no problem to hold a conversation and your breathing is relaxed and not laboured. These easier days are when your body gets the benefit of the harder training.
So if you are new to running and you do that same hill session on a Monday followed by a really hard fitness class the next day (Bodyblast, Crossfit, Insanity etc.) and then another hard club session on a Wednesday, there is no way you can sustain that level of intensity without eventually getting injured or burnt out (this example is something we have seen first-hand while coaching runners). Once you can stop them overdoing it, they can then adapt in a positive way and really start to improve.
Many times it’s not about training harder. It’s about being smarter.
3. Move Better - Evidence shows that higher Loading rates e.g. longer ground contact times) and bigger joint torques (e.g. overstriding excessively) can cause injuries. Improving technique should be focused on reducing these. Some people already run with great technique and don’t need much help to improve but in my experience a lot of people who are new to running can generally do with a little help.
By putting these people through a screening process, looking at more basic movements and analysing how they run, we can affect a positive change.
4. Address Your Foot Health - Many people get hung up on what type of shoe they should be wearing when running. And while this is certainly something to get right, I would suggest that the shoe you wear for the other 16 hours of the day (awake time) will have a much bigger influence on the state of your foot.
A shoe should be foot shaped and not tapered and pointed in the toe box. This allows the big toe to be aligned properly and to do its job of stabilising the foot and everything above it. If the big toe is squashed into a narrow toe box, it will not be aligned properly and this has a knock on effect for your movement. A wide stable base of support makes it easier for us as bipeds to stay upright. But keep in mind, if you sit most of your day then the foot isn't given enough of a stimulus to change, no matter what shoe you wear. It needs to be weight bearing as much as possible.
For finding the right running shoe, ask the staff at Pete Blands!
5. Walk Before You Run - If you are just starting out in your running journey and you lead a fairly sedentary life (sit all day at work, don’t engage in physical activity of any other kind), it might be worth considering a less risky strategy of building miles by walking.
While this may not seem like a fun way of doing things, it will aid in losing some excess weight, condition the legs to moving more and be adequate to stimulate some aerobic fitness gains. Once you have established a regular walking habit (3 - 5 times per week for 45 mins), then at least you have some base fitness and conditioning built up in a much lower-risk way.
You could then start to include running segments within each walk e.g. run for 30 seconds, walk 1 minute, repeat.
The above tips are generalised and not meant to be applied across the board. They will provide some guidance and food for thought but if you want some more personalised advice contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Paul Tierney has represented Ireland twice at the World Ultra Trail Championships and was the 2015 Lakeland 100 Mile Race Winner. Paul is a Born to Run-certified Biomechanics coach and ITEC Level-3 certified Sports Massage Therapist.