Eight steps to injury-free running

Mon, Jun 25, 2012, 01:00

IT’S AN UNFORTUNATE rule of the road: take up running and there’s a good chance that injury will follow. It starts off as a minor twinge, something you think you can avoid. You try to run through it. But it morphs into grimace-inducing pain that threatens to suck up all the joy of running.

Most running injuries are due to overuse, overtraining, improper shoes or a flaw in the way the body moves. The problem is, many of us don’t know what exactly is causing the aches and pains we experience.

Dylan Crowe, a sports therapist at the Posture Centre in Dublin, deals with the walking – or hobbling – wounded on a daily basis.

“It’s especially common when people are new to running. I see a lot of problems with people’s calves. From doing nothing to suddenly running for a previously sedentary person can put a big load on the lower legs,” he says. But it’s not just newbies who are vulnerable. He also sees seasoned runners with injuries and, more often than not, it’s their knees.

“That tends to come with overtraining. Increasing mileage too quickly, without cross training, can easily cause problems,” he says.

The good news is, many of these running injuries can be prevented. By following a few simple rules, it’s possible to stay injury-free and take the pain out of pounding the pavement.

1. Check your posture

Running coach Greg MacMillan is a big believer in “running tall”. He says we slouch far too much, due to being hunched in front of computers all day. By running in a relaxed, upright manner, you can help prevent injuries and reach your full potential.

“No head in front of your body, and no butt sticking out,” he says. “I’ve coached high-schoolers up to senior citizens – I know that just by telling them to run tall, their running technique improves greatly, no matter how experienced they are.”

Another option is to get a full posture and gait assessment by a physical therapist or similar expert. Crowe says this will help identify weakness and imbalances in your body.

“Once you start your corrective exercises your joints will begin to stack properly on top of each other,” he says. “This will lead to fewer torsions, shifts and stress in the musculoskeletal system. This reduces chances of injury.”

2. Know your limits

It’s easy to get carried away. The body needs time to adapt from training changes and jumps in mileage or intensity. Muscles and joints need recovery time in order to handle more training demands. If you rush that process, you could break down rather than build up.

Most experts subscribe to the 10 per cent rule: build your weekly training mileage by no more than 10 per cent per week. If you run 10 miles the first week, do just 11 the second week, 12 the third, and so on.

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