I thought it might be useful to do a quick post on reducing the chance of lower limb injuries in running plus what exercises are useful to do alongside running that can reduce the risk.
One big thing which I see in runners which contributes to injuries is an increase in volume of training too quickly.
The research suggests that when you go from 3-4 days a week of running your chance of injury goes up by 400%!
This is likely due to the lack of a rest day.
This is not to say you shouldn’t run more than 3 days a week, just know that if you do, you need to be aware of the risk and perform activities to reduce the chance of picking up an annoying injuries that will mean you then can’t run for weeks.
There are a few key things you can do to help reduce your chance of injuries when doing lots of running.
The number one thing is to introduce a session per week of resistance training (strengthening) into your routine.
Just because you run it does not mean that you have good strength in your legs, or that the strength you do have is well balanced.
Since we know that loading on the tissues is a key component in injury it stands to reason that increasing the loading tolerance of the tissue eg tendons, ligaments and muscles will lead to reduced risk in those tissues becoming injured.
Doing exercises that are different to running will mean that the muscles, tendon and ligaments of the lower body get a variety of stimulus that will help to reduce the risk of injury.
The other thing I see a lot of is reduced mobility in and around the hip and alongside this, a lack of strength of the gluts.
If you lack hip extension then you will often find that you are not using your gluts and this can lead to knee pain.
Stretches to increase hip extension can be vital in running and you can often combine this with strength exercises for your gluts that will really help you long term with reducing knee injuries.
Exercises like the tri-planar hip flexor stretch shown here are great:
Also combine this with a hip thrust and monster walk along with a side plank with leg lifts
These exercises will help increase hip extension and strengthen your gluts to keep knee and ankle pain at bay along with hip issues.
The other big culprit with running is foot mechanics.
NOT just over pronation (Flat feet) either. Sometimes it can be UNDER PRONATION!
The foot is designed with lots of joints and muscles and needs to be both mobile and strong.
If its either too mobile and lacking control, or too stiff and strong and lacking mobility this can be a disaster for the mechanics when running.
Exercises like the clock can be great for increasing the mobility of the foot and also the strength in different planes of motion.
Doing this barefoot is great as well, as it really gets the foot moving.
One big concept is one that I’m sure you will all be fairly familiar and that is running technique.
How you run will play a role in how much force goes through the foot and therefore where this stress goes when it travels up the chain of the lower leg.
Elite runners have a cadence of 120-150 steps per minute whereas most amateur runners are sitting at around 80-100. Upping cadence by 15-20 per cent has been shown to have a really beneficial effect and so running with the cue of “taking more steps” can be really helpful
The other cue that often helps is to “run more quietly”, less noise when contacting the floor means that you are likely creating less vertical forces and therefore will have less ground reaction forces going into the foot and so less force for the foot to absorb.
Last but not least let’s talk about recovery.
Getting 7-9 hours of sleep is one of the best things you can do if you are training and working hard.
People underestimate how much of a difference it can make when you are getting a good amount of rest and then they want to talk about the next best supplement that often will make very little difference to anything!
The other key to recovery is nutrition, getting good levels of your macronutrients (Proteins, Fats and carb – don’t miss out on the carbs) as well as micronutrients from fruits and vegetables is massive when it come to helping your body to deal with the stress you put on it when training.
So there we have it. There are obviously lots of different injuries you can get from running and if you are in pain and are unable to run I would advise you seek some professional help.
I work at Jones therapy https://jonestherapy.co.uk/ in Biggleswade and would be more than happy to help if you have any specific questions about injuries when running.
Key takeaways to reduce running injuries
1. Implement some strength training
2. Increase volume of training gradually
3. Have adequate mobility of the ankles, knees and hips.
4. Look at your running technique and try to implement simple cues to improve your efficiency
5. Recover well between sessions
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