While running related injuries are very common, they can be prevented! Whether your goal this is year is to run a marathon, complete a fun run or simply run a lap of your local park, here are six steps you can take to keep any aches and pains at bay.
1. Gradually increase the load
One of the most common causes of running related injuries comes from increasing the load too quickly. If you’re planning on going from not running at all, to running 5km plus every day, chances are, something will start to hurt sooner or later.
It is incredibly important to slowly expose the body to exercise and build intensity, frequency and duration over time. This allows the body to adapt and build strength to prevent muscles and tendons becoming overworked and sore.
Set yourself a training schedule where you gradually increase the total kilometres each week over a 6-12 week period. Mix it up with short, long and interval style runs, with some rest days in between.
2. Keep your muscles strong!
It is very important to complement your running training with a solid strength and conditioning program. Keeping your glutes, quads, hamstrings and calf muscles strong is crucial in ensuring optimal biomechanics with your running style and preventing muscles from becoming overworked and sore.
Clinical Pilates is a great way to strengthen and stretch these muscle groups and can be modified by your physiotherapist to target specific areas of weakness.
3. Take the time to warm up AND cool down properly
I can tell you now, bending down to put your running shoes on does not count as an adequate warm up! It is vital to warm up our muscles and tendons prior to exercise to ensure they are functioning optimally to minimise the risk of muscular strains. 5-10 minutes of dynamic stretching prior to exercise is best.
After your run, the cool down period is equally important as it allows time for the muscles to relax, provides time for lactic re-absorption and reduces the risk of muscle soreness post exercise. Try a 5 minute walk, followed by static stretching. Ask your physiotherapist for more information if you’re unsure.
4. The foam roller is your friend
Often stretching isn’t enough to manage the increase in muscle tightness that comes from running. Foam rolling is a great way to release your tight muscles and fascia to manage muscular aches, pain and delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Try at least 30 seconds through your gluten, quads, hamstrings and calves after every run and also whenever your muscles are feeling tight.
5. Wear appropriate footwear
Every foot is different, and it so important to have footwear that is comfortable and supportive. Having shoes that fit properly is crucial to ensuring optimal foot biomechanics and preventing injury. Get your feet properly fitted when buying your new runners and check with your physiotherapist or podiatrist if you are unsure of the best shoe for you.
6. Don’t push through the pain
Above all, ensure any aches and pains are checked early to prevent them from turning into a full-blown injury. If a specific pain persists for than two days, best advice is to have it reviewed by your physiotherapist. A physiotherapist can properly assess the areas of concern and give you advice on how to best continue with your training. Manual therapy techniques such as massage, dry needling and taping can be used to unload sore muscles, tendons and joints so that you can get back to running pain free.