This is your step-by-step guide to running injury-free from Third Space Sports Medical physiotherapist Sophie Apps
Running is the original fitness booster and fat burner, and for good reason. However, injuries can quickly slam the brakes on your progress and, over the time spent recuperating with your feet up, your fitness can fall into reverse.
Problems most often occur as a result of over enthusiasm. You know that running is good for you and logic suggests that more miles means more benefits. But that’s not always the case.
If you’ve run further than normal, run on different terrain, run in new footwear, run faster than normal, or run a higher volume over the course of the week, you’re placing stress on your body that it isn’t yet accustomed to. Each step places major load through your body and it needs time to adapt, slowly.
These are the preventative steps you can take to keep you moving forward.
Progress in small increments
The best method of prevention is to prepare your body for the type of load, and for the duration of that load, ahead of schedule. “Time on your feet” is the buzz phrase. It’s important – especially when looking at longer distance racing. Your body experiences a lot of pressure over the thousands of steps across a 10K and it needs time in training to acclimatise. Go all out on your first training run and you’ll most likely catch your body unprepared and stumble into injury. As a general rule you should add no more than 10 percent per week to your total weekly mileage.
However, the amount or distance you can run also comes down to how strong you are. And so you need to hit the gym for long distance success and sustainability. Running makes us feel great, but it doesn’t help keep our bones, joints and soft tissues strong. To be able to build capacity for the demand placed upon your body, weight training and pushing your body outside of its comfort zone is what is required in order to prevent injury.
Body weight compound exercises are the best place to start if you have never completed this type of training before (squats, lunges, deadlifts being the best place to start). If you already lift weights then aiming to squat and deadlift your body-weight is a sensible next step when setting strength goals in the gym.
From here you can then add dynamic and explosive movements (plyometrics), so your body can tolerate that higher level of load when you add the element of speed. Twice a week add box jumps, broad jumps and single leg hops into your programme.
Most people neglect any single-leg work as part of their weights routine. But remember, when you run you’re only ever in contact with the ground on one leg at one time and training your lower body on a single side will maximise the strength and control you have whilst on one leg. This can be as simple as standing on one leg for as long as you can. You can then progress to single-leg squats, single-leg deadlifts and single-leg calf raises as the bread and butter for any plan if you’re a runner hoping to stay injury free.
Your running gait is the way that your foot strikes and leaves the floor with each stride and comprises of five phases. The foot has its own natural rolling movement, outwards or inwards, throughout the five phases and injuries can occur when these rolling movements, known as pronation, become exaggerated. Gait analysis can be used to improve your running form and suggest running shoe options that can help to offset or compliment your gait and keep you progressing, injury-free.