Runners are prone to a range of injuries and unfortunately are likely to experience them from time to time. If you have suffered a recent injury and are now keen to lace up your shoes and get back out there, ensure both your body and mind are ready before you do so.
Common injuries caused by running are usually in the knees, ankles, shins and feet. Quite often they are the result of overuse and develop over time, such as when you increase your load or distance too quickly, don’t allow your body enough time to recover between sessions, weak or tight muscles and wearing inappropriate shoes.
Running can put quite a bit of stress on the body, particularly on joints, and even more so if improper running technique is used. There are certain things you can do during your recovery period so you can return to running with the confidence that your body is strong and able to handle the demands of the activity.
Running & Strength Training
It is really important to incorporate strength training into your training if you are a runner. While it tends to be overlooked by many runners, it is critical to strengthen the body and 1 protect the joints from injury in the first place. It also helps with balance and stability and improves the efficiency of your running biomechanics and therefore enhances your performance.
Your body absorbs enormous forces while running – multiple times your body weight – and strength training can help prepare for this. Strength training is especially important following an injury to rebuild the capacity of the injured area that is lost due to the period of rest and inactivity, as well as minimising further damage.
Running & Plyometric Training
Another excellent way to help your body deal with the demands of running is a structured plyometric training program. Plyometrics is exercise training that uses speed and force of different movements to increase muscle power in the body.
Examples of plyometric exercises are pushups, skipping, kicking, burpees or jump squats. When you land from a jumping movement, the muscles stretch and that gives the next jump even more power. By stretching and contracting your muscles, they will become strong and flexible to help with movement.
Because the core movements are jumps, your legs and lower body will benefit enormously from plyometric exercises. Flexibility, balance and agility improve and that all contributes to safer and faster running.
How Do I Know I Am Ready to Run Again?
Don’t return to running too quickly after an injury or you will do more harm than good. Specialised assessments carried out by a qualified and experienced sports physiotherapist like one of the team at Melbourne Sports Physiotherapy will keep you on track.
Your physio will undertake a series of assessments that test your strength, balance and power and they will give you the green light to run when your body is capable of doing so safely. The types of assessments will vary but some common ones used towards the end of an injury rehab program are calf raises, single leg squats and hopping.
Another factor to keep in mind is your mind, because if you are worried about not being ready and are scared of re-injury, you are not mentally ready to run yet. When you feel strong and have the assurance of your physio, you will feel confident and able.
Keep Running Without Re-injuring!
Once you have returned to running at a minimal intensity, build up slowly so as not to re-injure yourself. Always track your distance and/or duration of your runs so you can be sure you’re not pushing yourself above your capacity.
Always have some days off between your runs, knowing that doesn’t mean you don’t have to do nothing. Schedule in some walks, go for a swim or do some strength training a few days a week instead.
Repeat your previous session before increasing your load as this gives your body the time to adapt. When you do begin to increase, only alter one thing – that is, either your distance or your pace. If you increase both together you will end up very tired, and the worst case is another injury. It is recommended you increase your distance first, and then eventually try a shorter run at a slightly quicker speed.
Factor in a week to deload, so rather than increasing the difficulty of your runs each week, do so for 3 weeks, then for the next week cut the distance in half but keep up the same pace. This will assist you to mentally and physically recover.
Always remember to be mindful of any pain or soreness you experience when you are increasing your running intensity as that may be the early sign of a potential injury. Pain should not affect your running technique, should not get progressively worse or last longer than 24 hours, or exceed a 3/10 pain level. Keep in contact with your physio during this time as they will help you with your return to running.
Call Melbourne Sports Physiotherapy or book an appointment online to discuss your return to running. With physios who specialise in running and the associated injuries, they can provide advice throughout your rehabilitation and have you back out running stronger and faster than ever.