6 simple steps to injury prevention
Hi guys, I'm delighted to post a blog from one of my personal friends and professional partners, James Kirkpatrick of The Recovery Room (Romsey). James helps runners from around the Romsey and Southampton area by treating and preventing injuries, and has kindly shared his thoughts on running injury prevention. It makes for a great read with clear and practical advice for us all. Coach Ian
Why do I get injured?
One of the main causes of runners getting injured is training error. These training errors are often linked to overuse and misuse, but also very easily avoided by following a few simple steps.
The body is resilient, adaptable, and robust with many factors involved when the body adapts to training loads - i.e. physical, mental, hormonal, nutritional, etc.
Being too enthusiastic and running without appropriate rest, or increasing distance too soon are two of the most common reasons for developing an injury. Subtle increases in load can go unnoticed, so be vigilant for increasing elevation profiles, changing running surface, speed or intensity of your run to soon.
Keep track of your weekly mileage, even if this remains unchanged, and watch out for alterations in the other training variables. Over time, these increases can become unsustainable and lead to injury (check out Ian's previous blog on the long-run). You can log and monitor these variables in a training diary or by using a GPS watch.
Pain - am I damaged?
When these variables (frequency, intensity, time and type of running) stress the body beyond its capacity to cope, this will sensitise areas of the body which in turn may lead to pain. Often, runners confuse pain with ‘damage’. Although sometimes this is the case, pain can occur both with or without actual tissue damage.
A popular example of this is when a builder put a nail through his work boot and experienced high levels of pain, but after being transported to hospital the x-ray showed the nail missed the foot (going between his toes). Once this was understood by the builder, the pain disappeared. So, the belief of tissue damage could actually bring about pain without actual damage, weird huh..?
Should I still run with pain?
If we relate this concept to running, it’s fine and normal to experience mild sensitivity at a self-diagnosed rating of 3/10 for discomfort. But heightened amounts of pain regularly over this threshold (i.e. 4+) can increase the nervous system’s sensitivity to pain. This can cause the nervous system to overly predict pain (like the builder), amplifying the pain experience. This can lead to heightened pain in the absence of ‘damage’, leading to longer term pain when injury occurs or in chronic conditions.
Poor sleep patterns of less than 8 hours per night can increase sensitivity further leading to poorer pain tolerance, so make sure you factor rest days from running and maintain a regular sleep pattern.
So, when you next get a niggle, you don’t necessarily have to stop running, but if the problem is persistent (more than 2 weeks) and more than a 3/10 on the pain-scale, it’s worth getting checked out to reduce actual or perceived tissue damage and lengthening the rehabilitation times.
How do I reduce my chances of getting injured?
1. To avoid these pitfalls in training, a good starting point is to determine your current fitness and strength compared to the distances you wish to run. Try to improve strength in formal training sessions and make a plan for slowly increasing the frequency, intensity, time and type of training. Plan your time to factor in rest days, don’t be afraid of some sensitivity, but listen to your body when a niggle arises.
2. Make this a formal plan and write it down. Make sure you are realistic with your capabilities and the time you have to commit to training. Start from the ‘here and now’ and work to where you need to be. This will help keep self-confidence high but focussed on the goal of achieving your race distance.
3. Get into a good sleep pattern, aiming for 7-8 hours per night. Evidence suggests that poor sleep is a major risk factor for developing an injury.
4. Be vigilant for spikes in load as these can increase the chances of injury, this will allow your body to adapt to the demands placed upon it - monitor this with your GPS device/app or turn your plan in to a training diary and write it all down.
5. Train on similar terrain and elevation to your targeted event (this could be difficult depending on where you live if it’s a mountain or hilly race), but you need to get your body used to the right terrain and elevation profiles, introducing this gradually.
6. And finally, don’t forget to look back at your successes and how far you have progressed. Write a list of anything that could be a factor in helping you (current strengths) and address any potential barriers (limitations, current physical condition, etc.) such as time. And celebrate the progress you make!