Blog by Jennifer Hitchcott[mk_social_networks size=”large” style=”rounded” margin=”4″ border_color=”#cccccc” bg_hover_color=”#232323″ icon_color=”#8224e3″ icon_hover_color=”#eeeeee” align=”center” twitter=”https://twitter.com/Jenny_Hitch”]
Regrettably, I am no stranger to injuries. Over the years I have had my fair share including a stress fracture, shin splints, trochanteric bursitis, Achilles tendonitis, and I could go on. When I first started running, I was doing well if I went a month without, at least, a niggle. But experience has taught me I can minimise the risk of injury by following a few rules. I now know what my body can do (and what it can’t) and to listen what it is telling me. Here are my tips and recommendations:
1. Keep a training log. It helps to keep a note of what you have done – record pace, distance and the date. If you have a heart rate monitor a record of your average and peak heart rate is worthwhile- if it’s particularly high you might be struggling to recover so need to back off a few days. I sometimes include a note describing the terrain, including the elevation of the route. Review the log periodically and check if you have given yourself enough recovery time between hard training sessions. If you do pick up an injury, a retrospective look at your training might highlight where and why the problem started. I know, for example, that significant hill work can cause me shin splints if I don’t allow sufficient recovery time. I make sure I have 2-3 days of non- impact exercise or easy running after a hill rep session.
2. Bite the bullet. If you feel a niggle, it’s easy to convince yourself that things are ok. So you go for a run and by the time you get back you have yourself an injury which will need days or even weeks off. Take advice from your body! A niggle is a warning sign to back off; go for a swim, cross train, do some strength work or better still, take a rest day and foam roll! One day ‘off plan’ is worth it to avoid injury.
3. Identify your body’s weak spot(s) and work to strengthen everything around it! Your body will compensate for a weak area when exercising hard – this can cause unforeseen problems elsewhere. Knee pain could be due to weak glutes, or shin pain because of tight calves.
4. Strength and conditioning. Love it or hate it, gym work will help build a body less prone to injury and improve your running at the same time! Squat, lunge, strengthen your core and work the upper body. Make sure your technique is spot on. A single leg squat keeping your knee correctly aligned will do you more good as a runner than repping big weights at the squat rack. Challenge your body by reducing the stability on which you perform the exercises- squat on a BOSU or plank using a TRX, for example.
5. Rest days have got to feature in your training programme. The exact amount of rest will depend on your condition and your ability to recover. Rest means no exercise! No cross training, no gym work. Soft tissue (muscles, tendons, cartilage etc) can start to repair when properly rested! So fuel up, sit down and chill out. Get the right mental attitude to resting, being ‘over fatigued’ can sap motivation. Your body doesn’t work on a strict Monday-Sunday, 7 day schedule- so your training programme doesn’t necessarily have to either.
6. Are your running shoes still up to the job? At the risk of stating the obvious we sometimes forget what the miles of tarmac is doing to the state of our running shoes. Those slabs of rubber are there to protect and help minimise injury – don’t skimp if it’s time for replacements!
Remember, running should be enjoyable! Pushing yourself to the extreme is not always a good thing. Be mindful of the niggles and back off. For a runner there is nothing more disappointing than having to pull up in a race because you are running on an injury – worse still is not making the race at all.