Summer is fast approaching, and we all want to be outdoors. Whether you want to keep fit, fresh air, or a dose of vitamin D, it is great to run outdoors. And it's important to run healthy. Increasing your outdoor running miles can increase your risk of injury - but it doesn't have to. Most running injuries are related to overuse, irregularities in training or having biomechanical factors that place increased load on your joints and muscles, or simply a single accident. In this blog we will be discussing 5 key factors to keep you injury free.
1) Gradual increase in running load
“Too much too soon" might put you at risk of overuse injuries. Your body needs time to adapt to new training loads. When the weather improves, it is tempting to increase your running times, intensity and frequency all of a sudden. In layman's terms, this mean how far, how hard and how often you want to run. Be careful! Follow the 10% rule. Increase your running load by 10% weekly maximum, be it distance or time. Add 10% to your distance, your time, or your speed, but not all on the same run! And take a rest day if your body needs it.
2) Strengthen and conditioning
We all know that we need to be more active. But the reality is that we do spend long hours sitting down or being sedentary, and over time our bodies decondition. Certain muscle groups such as hip flexors become tight and buttock muscles waste away. You need to regain this loss gradually.
When you run, with every step there are impact forces passing up from your feet, through the knees, the hips and up to the spine. Evidence has shown that a stronger core with better trunk control reduces impact forces on the body and also reduces energy wasting in the kinetic chain. This allows a better stride and lowering risk of injury.
A good strength and conditioning programme should include gluteal strengthening, hip flexors flexibility and core stability work. Squat, walking lunges and bridging are good exercises to do.
3) Appropriate shoe wear and biomechanics
What you wear on your feet does matter. You might find your trainers are wearing out faster than you expect or wearing down on one side. It’s all about biomechanics. The volume of your running load, frequency, and environment can all have an impact. Ideally, you want a pair of trainers that offers best fit to your unique biomechanics and anatomy. If in doubt it is good to carry out a gait analysis with a professional, and get help on the best choice of trainers. In some cases, tailor made orthotics will be needed to address impact forces, and problems such as flat feet or poor force transition from rear foot to forefoot strike. In addition, you should change your trainers every 300-500 miles. This means if you run 15 miles weekly, you should get a new pair roughly every 6 months. Our gait analysis services are ideal if your are not sure what foot wear is best for you.
4) Recovery & rest
After exercise our bodies go through healing process to deal with post-exercise micro-trauma in muscles. It is therefore important to invest time in resting to allow muscle recovery. Resting does not necessarily have to be a complete inactivity. In fact, in recent years research has found that ‘active recovery’ provides a faster recovery and supports the growth of a stronger body as compared to passive recovery or inactivity. Active recovery refers to exercises completed at a heart rate that allows biochemical clearance of metabolic products responsible for muscle micro-trauma and residual fatigue after the initial strenuous exercise. An example of active recovery being a gentle brisk walk on your off day, or foam rolling or massage when you are feeling tight. Alternatively, you can consider doing yoga, pilates, or swimming at low intensity. If you worry about falling behind your running goals then you should run with the volume of half or two-third of your normal work out.
Your body is a powerhouse that requires food to run. A well balanced diet is important for your body to utilise the fuel during running. An imbalanced diet might give you early fatigue and therefore risk of injury. Protein is the building block of muscles, and carbohydrate is a key source of fuel to your body during exercise. Prior to your running, take easily digestible carbohydrates and small amount of protein such as a slice of toast with peanut butter and banana at least 30 minutes to an hour to boost your energy whist you are on the road. After exercise follow a similar diet but with higher amounts to restore glycogen and protein breakdown during the exercise for tissue repair. And don’t forget to replenish your fluid and electrolytes that you lose through sweat. Unless you’re on a serious training regime, just keep it simple, balanced and stay hydrated.
Final word: Most injuries don’t come out of nowhere, listen to your body ‘s warning signs, any aches, soreness may mean your body needs some attention. If in doubt speak to your physiotherapist for advice or further investigation.