A guide to managing (or preventing) running or sports injuries

As the Bathalf draws closer and closer and many of you are in full training mode, I thought I’d give some advice on how to cope with any niggles or aches that may be bothering you….

Injuries can turn contented runners into irritable people when they are made to take time out from training. We treat many patients at our clinics, whether novice runners or experienced veterans, who are suffering from sports injuries and the psychological impact of being forced to take days, weeks or even months of from training can be devastating.

When training for an event, whether it be a 5k run or a full marathon, an injury could possibly prevent you from competing. I generally assess this depending on the severity of the injury and the length of time needed to recover. It’s really important though that you never try to run through an injury as ultimately, this will only exacerbate the problem and could potentially mean additional time away from training.

In my experience when treating athletes, if you miss two weeks or less of your training program due to illness or injury, then it is highly likely that it won’t affect your ability to race. If your base fitness is good and you gradually ease back into your training, then it shouldn’t take more than a few runs to get back to where you were before injury. However, any injury that takes more than two weeks to recover from should be approached with care and guidance from an appropriate healthcare professional, like an osteopath or physiotherapist, would be advisable. Depending on the type of injury and the length of time until race day, it may be worthwhile choosing a different race.

There are just a few preventative things runners can do to avoid injury (apart from avoiding accidents!) and these are stretching, strengthening, and avoiding doing too much too soon.

My general advice to people who are training for an event is, ‘Listen to your body and know its limits. If something doesn’t feel right then let your body rest’. A lot of injuries start off as just a minor irritating pain but then, in no time at all, they become incapacitating and it’s these type of injuries that take a lot longer to treat effectively. Sometimes it’s all too easy to think ‘Oh, I’ll just run it off’, but remember, you also want to make sure that you are able to keep up with your training regime.

Stretching

Stretching is a common way to assist in avoiding sports injuries. Warm up before each run with a brisk walk or a gentle jog to get your heart pumping. A brief sequence of dynamic stretching will help to improve your joint range of motion and increase the blood supply to your muscles, which will help prevent injury. Static stretching is more appropriate when you have completed the run. Don’t forget to stretch your upper body too, since you use your entire body when running. If you’d like further advice on the different types of stretching we advise for pre and post training or if you’d like us to send you a specific stretching programme that you may implement into your training programme then please just get in touch with one of our clinics and we’ll be happy to help.

Strength

Another great approach for preventing sports injuries is strength training as it actually helps your muscles become more efficient and effective when running. If you don’t have a gym membership, or just hate going to the gym, I recommend straightforward, effective exercises that can be performed at home, using your own body weight, for example, squats, lunges, planks, push-ups, and sit ups. You can also add light weights into the mix, as you get stronger. It’s advisable to do your strength training on the days that you don’t plan on running, but if you do combine the two on the same day then it’s best to run first, since warm muscles are great for strength-training, tired ones are merciless for running!

Too Much, Too Soon?

My final piece of advice is probably the one that is the biggest culprit when it comes to sports injuries – don’t do too much, too soon! This applies to both speed and distance. I would advise increasing your weekly distance by no more than ten percent in order to avoid injury. Speed will vary for every beginning runner, but generally an easy run should not leave you feeling nauseous. When you begin your training programme, it’s important to be mindful of how comfortable you are feeling during your run. Sports injuries may result if you overexert yourself causing poor form. Remember that you should enjoy your training sessions with the ultimate aim of making it to race day and crossing that line injury free!