A Runners Guide - Training Advice and Tips to Help Keep You Happy and Injury Free
The Sports therapist is invaluable and will work closely with other specialists where necessary, to manage your sporting fitness. As a runner it is essential to keep your legs in good shape after heavy training sessions. Including a regular massage in your training routine is a great way to address muscle imbalances and pick up on potential problems that might result in future injury.
CHECK LIST: TEN WAYS TO HELP AVOID RUNNING INJURIES:
1. Pay Attention to Your Body
Don't ignore what your body is telling you. If something is hurting pay attention to it. Investigate, find out why and see if you can make some changes. Rest if necessary, but if the problem / pain persists seek advice and get some attention.
2. Avoid the Terrible 'Too's'
Don't do too much, too soon, too fast, too often, too hard with too little rest!
3. Warm Up!
Warm up gently before running, and stretch gently when finished. Stretching is not a warm up, it is a flexibility exercise. Evidence is mixed as to whether it avoids injury, but studies of stretching before running do not show any benefit. Stretching after your run however, when your muscles are warm is important. To warm up prior to a run, mobility / 'limbering up' exercises are a good idea - these are the performance of slow and gentle rhythmic joint movements. From the point of view of preparing the body for any activity, it makes sense that all the major joints are mobilised - often referred to as a 'whole body' approach.
Ankles - ankle circles Knees - knee bends to chest Hips - hip circles Mid Back - Trunk twists Shoulders - shoulder rolls and circles
Why Mobility Exercises?
The rationale for mobility exercise is that the mobility movement generates heat and hence stimulates the synovial membrane around the joint to release synovial fluid.
Synovial fluid when cold is very viscous / 'sticky', like treacle, but when warm becomes more fluid / 'runny'. This less viscous fluid allows for smooth and easier joint movements. Also the articular cartilage absorbs some of this synovial fluid, providing the additional benefit of better shock absorption and a smoother sliding surface - important for the high impact of running.
Gradual pulse raising / warming up
Start with a brisk walk, you can include; heal walking, walking on toes, walking backwards and side stepping. Run easy for your first 10 mins of your session. Take short steps, move slowly, let your body gradually warm up and adapt to the stresses you are about to place on it. There are many changes that your body will be making to allow your body to run smoothly, efficiently and easily, give it a chance to get prepared.
Please note: If you are going to do speed work, then 10 mins will not be enough. You will need a longer and more complex warm up.
4. Increase Training Gradually / Slowly
The 10% rule for most people is the maximum increase per week, not the minimum. Every third week, try dropping your mileage significantly before moving ahead again from the previous week. This recovery week will allow your body to repair whilst having a relative 'rest week'.
5. Cool Down!
Don't just finish, stop and get in that car! Imagine you have just finished your run and at this point your heart rate is 150 bpm and the blood is pumping furiously through your muscles. Why do you think you should cool down?
Just as you ease into your run, you should ease out of it gradually decreasing the exercise intensity. This allows the body's systems to return back to their pre-exercising state in a controlled manner and helps prevent possible blood pooling (notably the legs) and muscle stiffness. When you suddenly stop exercising the heart continues to pump blood and the rate of blood flow to the muscles will still be quite high. With gravity this blood can quickly pool in the legs, if this happens and there is not enough blood returned to the heart for it to maintain an effective pumping action, blood pressure may drop causing possible dizziness, nausea and fainting.
Please note: In unfit or unconditioned individuals this can place undue stress on the heart and can lead to cardiac complications.
The gradual tapering off of your running intensity (over approx 10 - 15 minutes dependent upon your level of fitness, the intensity of the run and the environmental conditions) helps to maintain cardiac output and remove waste products of exercise from the muscles.
The post workout stretch component aims to maintain a healthy functional range of movement and if desired (recommended) to increase flexibility within specific joints. Range of movement is criticle to good performance, lack of it can contribute to impaired bio-mechanics, poor posture, injuries and fatigue, particularly in the lower back.
Tip:When stretching try to 'Listen' to your body. Stretch slowly and exhale gently at the moment of maximum stretch. Do not hold your breath. Concentrate on, and be totally aware of what you are doing to ensure the deepest relaxation. A reasonable guideline for the duration of your post workout stretching component would be 4 - 10 minutes in total.
6. Try Not to Change Things that are Working for You
Don't get carried away by the latest training trend or running shoe. Don't switch from slow and steady to suddenly doing an all interval workout because somebody says that you will lose weight more quickly and only in twenty minutes of 'cardio'! Shoes can be changed with advice and guidance according to your needs and training should be gradually and sensibly changed, to give your body time to adjust, adapt and heal.
7a. Wear Running Shoes (Sports specific) and Replace them Regularly.
Don't run in other sports shoes, i.e., tennis or cross trainer shoes. Replace your running shoes frequently. The shock absorbing capacity will diminish and may be inadequate after 350 - 550 miles. The upper part of the shoe may not show much wear but the shock absorption may still be gone. If you are running 20+ miles per week try to replace your shoes every 4 - 8 months.
7b. FOOT MECHANICS - determining your foot type
Inward and outward rolling of the foot during running are called pronation and supination, respectively. This action is normal.
There are three types of foot strike: Neutral (normal arch), Supination (high arch) and Overpronation (flat arch).
It is only excessive pronation and supination that can lead to injury. It is important to run with a running style natural to you and to have the correct trainers or orthodontics to support your foot posture.
One simple way to get a general idea of your foot strike and pronation tendencies is to look at your footprint. With wet feet walk across a flat, even dry surface and look at the footprint you leave behind. This will help you identify whether you have high or low-arched feet (see figure 1)
An excessive supinator will lose out on the shock-absorbing benefits of normal pronation movements. Excessive supinators tend to suffer from injuries to the lateral knee and hip, and can also be prone to stress fractures because of the higher repetitive impact forces.
An excessive pronator tends to suffer from anterior knee pain, medial tibial stress syndrome, Achilles tendon and soft-tissue injuries around the foot and ankle.
8. Eat a Well Balanced Diet and Sufficient Calories
Make sure you eat a healthy diet, avoid fad diets and unbalanced approaches to weight loss. Be certain to take in an adequate amount of calcium and ensure that your vitamin requirements are met. Always try to eat within 45 minutes after your run to replace your muscles glycogen stores depleted during running. This will enable swift recovery and less muscle fatigue.
9. Strength Train 2 - 3 Times per Week
Musculoskeletal fitness is one of the pillars of fitness. Strength training can be helpful for a variety of reasons:
Improving your lean body weight (muscle) can indirectly help with weight loss (body fat) as muscle will burn more calories at rest,
Strength training can help you run faster, longer and more efficiently. A study published last year in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research showed that runners who add 3 days of resistance training exercises to their weekly programme increase their leg strength and enhance their endurance,
Recovery is more efficient after long runs because strength training makes your body more efficient at converting metabolic waste into energy,
Less injury prone - as you increase your strength, you will also increase your joint stability, reducing risk of repetitive stress injuries. Leg exercises are particularly important to runners in reducing lower body injuries; these exercises strengthen muscles around the knees and hips - two areas that often cause problems for runners.
10. Finally - Enjoy Your Runs and Workouts!
This should be fun time and something to look forward to. Look for new routes and enjoy the off road, there are some beautiful coastal paths to explore. Find something to enjoy at each run. Even the accomplishment of getting through a run in extreme weather (hey it is the UK) can feel great.
"Ability is what you are capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it." Lou Holtz
Sports and Remedial Massage and Acupuncture Therapy, Plymouth, Devon. Professional rehabilitation and injury prevention for all types of sports, exercise and day to day activities.