Whether lacing up for a marathon or embarking on a loop around the park everyone from the amateur to the elite athlete needs to heed the warning signs of injury, get an accurate diagnosis and implement proper treatment as soon as possible in order to stop a minor problem from getting worse.
Upwards of 2/3rds of all runners will suffer from some form of overuse injury because of the repetitive, unidirectional nature of the exercise. Unpredictable acute injuries from a fall, accident or adverse weather can also occur and in addition, if you favour a “niggle” and alter your natural running style a secondary injury may easily develop.
It seems that the greatest challenge of running any marathon is not just finishing the race but making it to the starting line uninjured and rested! Add on the fact that you may have chosen to do a race that involves up to 5164 steps it is even more important to “run wise” as you are bound to gets aches and pains at some point!
Pain or gain? Runners accept pain as a part of the sport but not all pain is the same. You have to learn to separate the “good pain” associated with the positive progression of your fitness from the “bad pain” which tends to be unfamiliar, perhaps intermittent and possibly located to one area of the body. That can be the pain which is an early warning sign of injury.
Injury hotspots include theknee, calf and shin, iliotibial band (the IT Band is a long sheath of connective tissue that runs from the outside of the hip down to the outside part of the knee), ankle, Achilles tendon and the foot. Actually just about anywhere in your back and legs!
Correct diagnosis of your problem is essential if you are going to implement the best treatment. A full understanding of what is causing the problem is very important. It’s good to implement the basic RICE principles while you seek an appointment but don’t rely on Dr. Webpage, Mr. Guru Running Expert or grandma’s old wives tales to get you through. Consult a medical professional who understands sports injuries and their implications on your training protocol.
Treatment may often seem simple but it involves very specific massage, appropriate stretching, individually tailored exercises, and taping if required. Any of our well experienced Physiotherapists at International SOS can assess, treat and advise you on how to deal with many soft tissue or joint problems.
Having just said that injury seems rather inevitable don’t forget the adage that prevention is better than cure. Below are some concepts that can reduce your chances of incurring an injury:
Use good shoes that are designed for running. Log the miles you have run in each pair of shoes. Purchase a new pair of shoes when the mileage totals 300 – 500 miles. Shop at a specialist store where you can get your foot type and running action evaluated. Better to wear in your new shoes before any distance run.
Add some cross-training activities. Participating in a different sport or activity a couple of times a week other than running gives your legs and feet a welcome respite from the constant pounding and strengthens muscles that running doesn’t exercise. If you do become injured you will have an activity that you can turn to that will keep you fit while you recover.It’s important to work on your core muscles too.
Drink, drink, drink….(the right stuff!) Stay well hydrated to avoid heat injury. Dehydration affects your health and performance whenever you run. Drink water and a reputable sports drink, preferably with carbohydrate, little and often throughout the day –every day.
Warm up before you run. Ideas are changing and research is showing that a dynamic warm up before you exercise is more appropriate than static stretching. Before hitting the road do a few jumping about, mobilizing exercises, swing your arms and legs, start with a brisk walk and ease into the run with a gentle jog to get you heart rate up and the muscles warm. If you really feel you must stretch, do so after you warm up so your blood is flowing.
Utilize good recovery techniques to bounce back from tough training sessions or races.
Cool down after you run. A light 5-10 minute jog or brisk walk immediately after hard activity will help to bring your heart rate down gently, to pump out the lactic acid that builds up in your muscles after exercise and allow your body to return more comfortably to its resting state.
Make stretching after the run part of the run. A workout isn’t over until you stretch thoroughly. Your legs will be most receptive to the benefits of stretching immediately after you run, slow down.
Stretching offers many benefits including helping to
-Prevent muscular aches, pains, and cramping
-Reduce the possibility of muscular soreness/fatigue/tightness over the next day(s)
-Increase the muscles efficiency/effectiveness of movement to improve your overall speed, stamina, and form
Static stretching basics for runners
– Stretch the muscle to the point of its greatest range of motion, but do not overextend. You should feel very minimal tightness but not pain.
–Hold and control the stretch for up to 30 seconds.
– Stretch all the major muscle groups in the legs e.g., calves, hamstrings, quadriceps, groin, hip flexors and glutes.
– Don’t overstretch an injured area as this may cause additional damage.
Eat well. The correct diet for runners is a topic on its own. Refer to a qualified dietician for advice on quantities and types of food to eat before, during and after a race or heavy training session
Get good rest. Adaptation only happens if there is enough recovery BEFORE the next training load.
-Take at least one complete day a week off your exercise and training. Training too hard is a common error made by people looking for rapid progression.
-If feeling tired, sluggish or unwell be wise and ease up on your activities. Other factors of your lifestyle figure into your physical well-being and stress at work or home or lack of sleep can take a toll on your body.
-Sleep is the best passive rest and gives your body and mind time for adaptation to occur. 7 – 9 hours a night is recommended but recovery also involves active rest.
Active rest includes things like:
Massage therapy which is great after a long run, hard race, and/or weeks of heavy training. It helps recovery by improving the circulation and relaxing the muscles. It flushes out the by-products of exercise that cause muscle soreness and fatigue.
Hydrotherapy using alternate hot and cold is invigorating and also helps with recovery. Immersing yourself in hot then coldwaterhelps to improve the circulation in the muscles and invigorate your body and mind! The jets in spas relax and massage muscles.
Take a cold shower of 30 – 60 seconds followed by a hot shower of 1 – 2 minutes. Repeat this 3 times. Or immerse yourself in a cold plunge pool for 30 – 60 secs and then in a warm spa or bath for 3 – 4 minutes. Also repeat 3 times.
Sheilagh Anderson graduated from Aberdeen School of Physiotherapy, Scotland and then worked in the Channel Islands, New Zealand and Hong Kong. After lecturing for 10 years at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Anderson co-founded Sports Physiotherapy International (SPI), a company dedicated to providing high standard physiotherapy service to elite athletes at sporting events worldwide. She is currently a head physiotherapist at International SOS Clinic.