Cramps in leg calves or sprain calf on ttriathlete runner. Sports injury concept with running man.

Runners: 10 top tips for injury prevention

1)      Pace yourself:

Experts agree that ‘training errors’ are the number one cause of training injuries- doing too much too fast too soon. Our bodies are excellent at adapting to change, however adaptation takes time and is best done slowly. Training errors can result is repetitive strain injuries, including ITB, Achilles tendinopathy and planter fasciitis to mention a few.

A good rule to follow is the 10% rule- build your weekly mileage by no more than 10% per week. If this is too much a 3% or 5% increase is also sufficient. There are so many training variables you can change to challenge yourself: incline, speed and distance to mention a few- just don’t change them all at once!

2)      Have a rest day:

Build at least once rest day into your training schedule. Beginners should alternate training and rest days. Exercise causes muscle tissue breakdown, depletion on energy stores (muscle glycogen) as well as fluid loss.  Recovery allows the body to replenish energy stores and repair damaged tissue. Without sufficient time to repair and replenish, the body will continue to breakdown from intensive exercise, resulting in injury.

3)      If you have taken time off, return slowly!

After taking time off due to injury (or for any other reason), don’t start training at the same intensity that you were at when you stopped. The body deconditions quickly and one looses adaptations gained from training much faster than one achieves them. Research shows that the time it takes to get back to your fitness levels depends on how fit you were. The fitter you are, the quicker you will return to your training fitness, however its always best to pace yourself especially at the beginning of your return, to avoid injury

4)      To stretch or not to stretch:

The evidence of whether stretching actually prevents injury is inconclusive with some studies showing that it does and others showing that stretching is actually detrimental to performance. I generally advise patients to stretch regularly in order to maintain flexibility, however this does not need to be before or after an exercise session.

5)      Invest in the right shoes

The big question amongst runners today: Barefoot running versus Running shoes- which is better?  The short answer is- we don’t know yet- not enough research has been done since the barefoot media frenzy that took hold in 2010. According to podiatrist Ian Griffith, comfort is the most important variable when it comes to choosing a running shoe. In fact, comfort has been linked to injury frequency reduction .So if it feels good  to run in, it’s the shoe for you! In terms of the frequency of changing shoes, Runners World recommends changing shoes every 400-500 miles.

6)     Variety is the spice of life:

Running is a repetitive movement where each foot comes into contact with the ground approximately 75 to 100 times per minute. Running on the same route at the same speed for the same distance without any variety may lead to overload of musculoskeletal structure resulting in repetitive strain injury. Varying your runs (longer ones, shorter ones, interval training) may not only add some excitement to your routine, but also vary the stresses on your body. Just make sure that any changes to your routine are done slowly and carefully.

7)      If it hurts treat it

I see a fair amount of people who ignore injuries and continue to run in pain. This results in an increase in rehabilitation time and more time off running- a prognosis that runners hate to hear! If it hurts and it doesn’t go away- get it treated! Physiotherapy tends to help speed the healing process and can often result in a quicker return to sport. A good physiotherapist will not only treat the symptoms but also identify the root cause of the problem, preventing a relapse

8)      Get a good night sleep

According to the British Medical Journal of injury prevention, insufficient sleep leads to a deterioration of performance, attention, motivation and mental concentration which leads to an increased risk of error and injury. Sleep is also good for healing. During deep sleep, the production of growth hormone is at its peak. Growth hormone speeds the absorption of nutrients and amino acids into your cells and aids the healing of tissues throughout your body.  Growth Hormone also has a stimulatory affect on your immune system.

9)      Eat enough protein

Our musculoskeletal tissues are strongly affected by what we eat. Adequate protein intake is important for muscle maintenance, growth and repair. According to it is imperative for injury prevention to eat enough calories every day. Without enough calories, your muscles will enter a catabolic state in which lean muscle tissue is converted into fuel. As a result, your muscles will be more prone to injury and less capable of repairing injuries that occur during physical activity

10)   Stay Hydrated

Dehydration causes muscle fatigue and cramping. Muscle fatigue can in turn lead to injury. In order to stay hydrated, drink throughout the day, especially on days where you exercise. This article by Runners World suggests you drink 1litre of water for every 1000 calories you burn. Always start a run hydrated. Drink 500ml of fluid (water energy drinks) 2 hours before your run and another 150ml just before you run.


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