As we head into the doldrums of winter, some of us are starting to ramp up our running in preparation for our next (virtual) event. Here are some common mistakes that lead to the vast majority of running injuries that I see in the clinic:
- Increasing your mileage too quickly– all too often people start a running program, or restart after time off, feel good and ramp up their mileage way too quickly. If you’re new to running a safe way to start is with gradually increasing walk/run intervals. If you’re an experienced runner, you can likely start without intervals, but be careful not to start where you left off. Generally, a 10% increase in volume weekly is considered a safe increase.
- Adding speed work/hills too quickly– if you’ve been running only on flat surfaces, or running at a very comfortable pace, and all of a sudden you decide to add some speed work or hills, your body might not have time to adapt. The load on a tendon is far greater with speed than it is at a slow pace. This will once again depend on your experience level, fitness level, other strength and conditioning, but make sure that you introduce one of these concepts at a time and introduce them gradually
- Changing running surfaces– this one comes from personal experience. If you have been running outside on asphalt and suddenly switch to the treadmill (or vice versa), your body once again might not have time to adapt.
- Rest-reinjury cycle– sometimes when runners start to experience pain they stop running for several days (or even weeks) and when they re-start, they are surprised to find that the injury hasn’t healed. In the presence of pain and inflammation, atrophy can happen quite quickly, so sometimes complete rest is not the answer. Focused exercise, rehabilitation, and reduced mileage is often a better solution (though it depends on the specific circumstance0. Seek a trusted health care practitioner for guidance on this concept.
- Increased stress/lack of sleep- lifestyle factors are often overlooked in running injuries. Just like increasing your mileage results in added stress on the body, added emotional stress and/or reduced sleep can have an effect on your body’s ability to heal itself. Studies I have seen recently found that people who slept at least 8hrs a night during the week (who here has time for that?) had significantly less injuries than those who did not. REM sleep is believed to be the most important part of our sleep cycle and occurs in the final 1/3 of your sleep. So, if you’re getting up early to get your run in (guilty) than make sure you go to bed early too.
- Improper fueling– make sure that you are getting proper nutrition when starting a running program. Protein intake is important to allow your muscles to heal themselves after exercise. Many experts state that you require at least 0.5g of protein for every pound that you weigh. In the day of the low carb diet, also ensure that your carbohydrate intake is adequate as runners need carbs.
- Not enough strength– the research on this topic is lacking, but it appears that performing strength exercises might have a protective effect on running injuries. Many experts that I follow recommend lifting heavy weights (be careful) instead of doing extremely high repetitions. Let running be your endurance work, and focus on strength when doing your weights.
- Running too infrequently– if you’re starting a running program, start out gradually but if you’re only running once or twice a week several weeks into your program, it might not be enough for your tissues to form adaptations. If your tissues don’t adapt, you’re more likely to develop an injury once you increase the demands (for example adding speed work).
These are just some of the many training errors that can result in a running injury. If you keep these in mind, your running program should be more successful. If you do “run into an injury”, make sure to seek a local health professional with knowledge of running to get you back on the right track. Call us at South Simcoe Physiotherapy to book your appointment today.