Running is excellent for overall health and wellbeing and makes us feel great due to the release of the happy hormone, endorphin. This makes it no surprise that running is the most popular form of exercise in the UK (National Government Survey, 2019). Running outside also has the benefits of further reducing stress levels, as studies state a reduction in stress when in nature.
Running injuries are very common and studies show that up to 79% of runners will be injured on a yearly basis (Benca E, 2020).
So, what can we do to help prevent injuries whilst running?
1) Address old Injuries first.
Before taking up running or increasing your mileage, please ensure you have completely addressed and rehabbed any current or old injuries. Previous injury is the most significant predictor of future injury, as injuries can lead to a biomechanical imbalance. Make sure you see a Physiotherapist for an assessment and management plan and they can also help guide you into your training.
2) Strength and Conditioning Training is key.
Studies show that 60-70% of running injury is due to training error, within this a key factor is how much load a runner can tolerate (Saraguitto et al, 2014). Strength and conditioning training has been shown to reduce sports injury by less than one third and halved the risk of overuse injuries by increasing the body’s ability to tolerate load. Start with incorporating some strength training for your core, gluteals, quadriceps, hamstrings and your calf’s as the statistics speak for themselves!
3) The 10% Rule
Following on from the above point, it is important that you gradually increase the load placed on your joints and soft tissue to avoid injury. The general rule to allow your tissues time to adapt and grow is not to increase your mileage by more than 10% a week! It is definitely the case of don’t do ‘too much too soon’!
4) Vary your run training.
Variety in your terrain, gradient, and type of training is important to avoid continuous overload on the same structures. Uneven surfaces place a mixture of stresses on the body, so try running on grass, and dirt paths etc regularly. Likewise mix up your training type, vary between interval training, slow runs and tempo runs. This will vary your stride length which will load your joints differently. A reduction in stride length can reduce the stress on the hips and knees. Remember as always to incorporate these changes gradually!
5) Running REST DAYS!
Adaptation takes time and tendons require roughly a day to repair after running, so running every day when you are not used to it can lead to the breakdown of tendon tissue (tendinopathy). Try swimming, cycling, yoga, pilates or strength and conditioning instead- and remember your body will need at least one complete rest day a week! Listen to your body and enjoy the rest.
And lastly…ENJOY your running and congratulations for moving your body!