I am writing this blog post during this horrible time of the covid_19 isolation where we are socially distancing and limited in terms of what physical activity we can do. If you're like me and go stir crazy when stuck indoors with the restrictions, running has become one of few options to get our daily outdoor exercise. I have noticed a big increase of people out running which is great! Although my pessimistic therapy head is thinking that many of these people may have little running experience/resilience and be teetering on the verge of injury. So here are a few simple tips that will reduce the risk of injury through running.
Warming or preparing the body for physical activity is the number one area missed out by most runners (and many gym goers too). People tie up their shoes then they're straight out the door. There some key things we must do before embarking on a run, the R.A.M.P protocol is what you need to be doing:
By raising the body's core temperature, heart rate, blood flow, breathing rate and joint fluid viscosity starting with a low intensity activity will prepare the body safely for more strenuous activity. Things like brisk walking, gentle bodyweight exercises or dynamic flow stretch routines are an efficient way to achieve this.
Activate refers to the key muscle groups you will be working, running is arguably a full body exercise but the focus should be on ankles, knees and hips. Activating synergist muscles will aid in joint stabilisation and overall function. For example, a "clam" exercise is a great glute medius exercise which will aid knee tracking when running. The key is to activate and not fatigue the muscle so that the mind-muscle connection is strengthened increasing the efficiency the muscle is recruited.
Mobility is the amount of controlled active movement we have at a joint. When exercising we want as much controlled movement as we can get to reduce the risk of injury. Dynamic stretches and isometric holds are a great way for the body to turn flexibility (passive movement at a joint) into mobility (active movement at a joint) and stability (control of movement at a joint).
To finish the warm up perform activities that will improve the subsequent performance. For running exercises like skips, hops and jumps will help prepare tendons and muscles ready for your run.
Strength training is more than just building muscles; I've written an entire other blog based on its benefits you can check that out HERE. The main benefits of strength training for runners include increased muscular power, increased tendon and ligament thickness and increased bone density. These benefits translate to running in increased speed and endurance, reduced repetitive strain injuries (RSI) or tendonitis and decreased risk of stress fractures. These are all common in runners who don't do adequate strength training.
The best (bodyweight) strength exercises for running include all variations of lunges (forward, reverse and lateral), split squats, bridge raises/hip thrusts, calf raises. The latter two exercises can both be done with one leg to increase the demand of the exercise and reduce the bilateral difference between legs. Aim for 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps with 60-120 seconds of rest between sets as this is a good starting point for building strength.
Obviously strength doesn't just develop over one night after one session you will need to program your strength training in around your running to optimise your results and reduce the risk of injury. If you struggle knowing how to do this I can help you with a structured program bespoke to you so you are getting the most out of your training. Click here to get in touch.
I've combined these two into one category as I feel that they're closely linked. Any physical activity will lead to certain muscle groups tightening up, if unresolved excess muscular tension can put strain on joints and lead to poor biomechanics. A well rounded self-care mobility recovery routine will increase the rate of recovery and reduce the risk of injury. Below is a list of my most recommended recovery methods.
Muscle Energy Technique is a form of stretching where you are contracting the stretched muscle sub-maximally at a comfortable end range. The best method I found is 5 seconds contract 5 seconds relax I will generally repeat 5-10 times depending on cessation of ROM. The contraction helps the nervous system recognise that end range as controllable, permitting a further passive range to be achieved. This allows you to then apply another contraction for the nervous system to recognise that end range and so on...
A fancy term for self-massage. Foam rollers, tennis and lacrosse ball are all excellent tools in performing self-myofascial release (SMR). Similar to stretching SMR allows you reduce the tension in the major muscle groups used for running promoting good biomechanics. It can also increase blood flow to specific areas, releases pain killing endorphins, removing waste products, delivering oxygen and nutrients. Check out the videos I did on foam rolling here - quads, ITB (iliotibial band) and lats.
This is where the magic happens! When we exercise we break our body's down, when we rest is where our body builds itself back up stronger to adapt to the stress we just put it through. If we don't get sufficient rest/recovery the next time we exercise we break ourselves down further, this is the slippery slope to overtraining and injury.
Nutrition is key in allowing your body to function at its best, if we always consume inflammatory inducing foods we will be preventing our bodies from moving and healing properly. Drinking enough water and eating adequate amounts of protein and healthy fats are essential in tissue and bone repair.
So there are my biggest tips on how to reduce your risk of injury when running but really these factors are the backbone for reducing the risk of injury in any sport or physical activity. I hope by doing these you stay fit and healthy and make huge progress in your training. Feel free to get in touch if you need any more guidance with your training, would like a more bespoke in depth training routine or if you would like to book some sessions.