Whilst in lockdown many people have been forced to change up their regular exercise regime and have been turning to running. It is easy accessible and excellent for your cardiovascular fitness, bone density, muscle strength and mental health, particularly helpful during this stressful time.
Unfortunately, running is one of the most intense forms of exercise out there and injury is a highly common occurrence. Beuno et al. (2018) found people suffer more injuries from running than any other sport, followed by football and then strength training. The difference however is that running injuries are normally overuse in nature, as opposed to traumatic. Shin splints, plantar fasciitis, runners knee, and tendinopathies are some of the most common injuries seen (van Gent, 2007). This is understandable once you understand the level of exertion running takes, a force of 6-8x your bodyweight goes through your achilles tendon with each step when running (Lee et al. 2019)
Luckily, most injuries are caused by training error rather than the nature of the sport itself; the benefits definitely outweigh the risks and there is plenty that can me done to mitigate these risks.
As an experienced MSK physio who runs at County level (just about) and having recorded a 1:17 for half marathon I hope to provide some insight and give my top tips for staying injury free:
- Build up your mileage slowly. A common bit of advice is not to increase your weekly mileage more than 10%; what is less common is that this really only applies if you are running more than 10miles per week. If you are running less that 10 miles a week, faster progressions are normally well tolerated. Whatever your fitness level though, a structured gradual increase in mileage and pace is recommended. The NHS Couch to 5k is a fantastic resource for a graded approach to running for those just starting, but do bear in mind that one size does not fit all, which leads me onto my next point…
- Wear a good quality running shoe (specifically designed for running!). I see many people running in inappropriate and fashionable footwear which does nothing to absorb impact or stabilise the foot, knee and hip. My personal preference is towards Asics, Brooks, and Salomon as even their cheaper models tend be of good quality. Physios are excellent for guiding you towards which types of shoes will work for you. Comfort will always be the best guide however! Lastly, know when to trade in your old shoes for you new ones – 500 miles is the max I would recommend for the average runner. I use Strava to monitor this (as well as my weekly mileage). See my blog on the best supportive running shoes out there today
- Consistency. Try and plan a regular schedule of running and stick to it, one of the most common errors I see is runners missing a day or two and go out for an extra long or hard run the next time they go out. So much of training, running or otherwise is purely neurological adaptation (the learned efficiency and coordination with which your muscles fire) that more regular and shorter periods of stimulation provide the fastest improvements with the least risk of injury, you will get much larger benefits from 3 runs a week adding up to 9 miles than 1 9 mile run a week and you are less likely to get injured.
Over the next few weeks I will be giving out other training tips including an article on the best supportive running out shoes on the market currently