So the Melbourne Marathon is now less than two months away, and replacing this year’s competitors swearing that they’ll never run again will be a fresh bunch of starry eyed newbies preparing to take on the rigours, eager to test themselves over 26 miles. If you are one of these individuals attempting to recreate Philippides’ effort to run to Athens to report victory at the Battle of Marathon (#funfact), you need to read this blog.
Sports Medicine Australia states that up to 70% of recreational and competitive runners sustain an injury in any 12-month period. These injuries can occur to any runners of any experience level (though more experienced runners are generally less injury prone). The most commonly cited injuries include patellofemoral syndrome (runner’s knee), iliotibial band syndrome, tibial stress syndrome (shin splints), plantar fasciopathy and Achilles tendinopathy1 – ALL overuse injuries.
A significant amount of these can be avoided by avoiding some simple training mistakes, so to avoid being another injury statistic, follow these tips.
- Run less
Perhaps the most common training error is to run too much. Overuse injuries occur when placing too much stress on one particular structure. Obviously to improve your running, you need to run, but there is a fine line between increasing performance and increasing risk of injury. We need to give the body time to adapt to our training. For those near the beginning of their training life running on 3 days should be enough, meaning you can have at least a day in between runs.
- Hit the gym
It is estimated that as much as 3 times your body weight is absorbed with each step when running2. Considering the number of steps taken in even a short run, it seems obvious that using resistance training to increase the body’s capacity to tolerate these forces is a necessity. This is also confirmed by research, indicating that overuse injuries can be reduced by almost 50% by strength straining3.
- Vary your training
Overuse injuries often occur not just solely from doing too much, but too much of the same thing. Regularly changing your training is an effective way to vary the stresses placed on structures of the body. High intensity intervals, medium tempo runs and hill runs are all examples of how you can still run but provide the body with a slightly different stimulus to adapt to. They also have their own performance benefits that you can’t get from a long steady distance run.
- Be aware of stress and fatigue outside your training program
Factors outside of running training can also potentially increase your risk of injury6. Stressors in day-to-day life, be it work or family related, or simply a bad night’s sleep, can have significant impact and fatigue your nervous system. Distances and intensities that would normally be a simple incremental increase in your training may become an injury risk. Unfortunately, it’s hard to quantify how much stress your nervous system is under, and what training is too much, but it’s important to be aware of the impact life stresses can have on your running.
- Have a plan, but be flexible
Having a solid and tailored program for your marathon is crucial to avoid sudden spikes in training load. These rapid spikes in any training variable are key risk factor for injury4. Your plan must also have some degree of flexibility about it. Injuries happen, kids get sick and sometimes you need to work long hours. There are enough stresses in life than having to worry about the fact you could only squeeze in 10km when your plan was 15km. As we mentioned above, sticking rigidly to a training plan when life doesn’t go to plan can perpetuate your risk of injury.
- Improve your balance
Given that running involves significant cumulative periods of time absorbing and generating force from one leg, having a solid base is crucial. The more comfortable and stable the body is, the more the neuromuscular system can concentrate on pushing you forward, rather than stabilising. Training the body to quickly recognise where it is in space, and giving it the ability to make adjustments quickly and effectively can reduce injury risk5. See the video below for an example of how go about this, your Melbourne CBD Osteopaths at Absolute can guide you with all the right techniques here.
- Recover well and often
Training is all about pushing our threshold to improve. But to improve we need to adapt to our new threshold, and that takes time. Spending too much time pushing the limits without allowing enough time for quality recovery is a sure fire way to over stress the tissues and increase your injury risk. Provide your body with the ideal recovery and adaptation environment by following the advice outline in our previous blog Recovery.
- Don’t make sudden changes in equipment
As with training, there is a fine line between incremental change for improvement and increasing the risk of injury. Any change in equipment has the potential to tick the ‘too much, too soon’ box. Be it a new backpack for your run commute, new footwear, or even training without shoes to feel the grass on feet if running around the oval, change should be slow and incremental. I always advise against chucking out your old runners after you’ve bought a new pair. This can allow you to phase in the new pair as your body adjusts.
Running injuries are most commonly a case of ‘too much, too soon’ and although the human body has an awesome ability to adapt to new stimuli, there is always a risk of injury.
If you are recovering from a running injury, are looking to reduce your injury risk or want to boost your performance, come and see our team of Osteopaths, Physiotherapists, Soft Tissue Therapists, Exercise Physiologists and Performance Coaches at Absolute Health & Performance in the Melbourne city centre.
Written by Osteopath Matt Wallace-Smith | Absolute Health & Performance- Osteopathy Services Melbourne CBD.
- Fredericson M & Misra A.K. (2007) Epidemiology and aetiology of marathon running injuries. Sports Med, 37(4-5) 437-439
- Grabowski, A.M., & Kram, R. (2008). Effects of velocity and weight support on ground reaction forces and metabolic power during running. Journal of Applied Biomechanics, 24, 288–297
- Lauersen J.B., Bertelsen D.M. & Andersen L.B. (2014) The effectiveness of exercise interventions to prevent sports injuries: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Br J Sports Med 48(11) 871-877
- Hulin BT, Gabbett TJ, Lawson DW, et al. (2016) The acute:chronic workload ratio predicts injury: high chronic workload may decrease injury risk in elite rugby league players. Br J Sports Med 50 231–236
- Emery et al. (2005). Effectiveness of a home-based balance-training program in reducing sports-related injuries among healthy adolescents: a cluster randomized controlled trial. Can Medical Association Journal. 172(6) 749-754
- Taimelo S., Kujala U.M. & Osterman K. (1990). Intrinsic risk factors and athletic injuries. Sports Med 9(4) 205-215