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I Am A Runner Part Three - Avoiding Injury
Published on 16 March 2017 by Daniel Apostol, updated on 02 May 2017
The aim of this blog post is not to scare you away from running, but to try and help reduce your risk of injury from running.
There are certain factors that we cannot eliminate, but we can provide advice, strategies and suggestions to help reduce the risk:
Due to decreased muscle mass and a different pelvis shape, women are more at risk of injury than men.
As we get older our tendon quality changes, we need more recovery time and our muscle strength reduces while our body weight and fat mass typically increases.
After pregnancy you will have an increased ligament laxity until all the hormone changes are normalised again.
Some people have anatomical variations, such as tibial or femoral torsion, rigid or a flat feet, other people are hypermobile or have co-ordination issues such as dyspraxia.
Our physiotherapy and rehabilitation team can help advise on all of these if needed.
There are other factors that can be greatly influenced and these today will be the focus.
The good news…a study in 2013 showed that runners over the age of 60 years old were performing as well as the youngest runner in the study. How…surely with their reduced muscle strength, reduced tissue elasticity and cartilage pliability their power should be less and their oxygen consumption greater? The answer is simply: sensible training, improving all areas so that it remains economical and we can continue running into our older years. The phrase, ‘train smarter not harder’ is key.
Another study concluded that beyond 50, runners lose up to 5% muscle strength per year in their legs, simply due to ageing. So…well the good news is that you can reduce this by paying more attention to your leg strength training. Yes this may be new to you, you may only have run before, but if you would like to continue, it may be worth adding it in to your programme because running alone will not sustain your muscle power as you age.
All the literature points to strength training helping with injury prevention. But runners and weights…well…the two don’t often mix do they!
So maybe some hard scientific data will help convince you.
A study in 2016 found that following a 6 week cross training programme, the subjects improved their 5k running time by 45 secs +/- 24 secs.
How about if the study is done on elite athletes instead? Well in 2014 a similar study performed on elite runners and cyclists also showed similar results.
You can find the benefits of 12 weeks’ strength training in the table below:
Next issue: Running surface.
Fu et al, 2015, found that there is almost no difference when measuring peak positive acceleration in the foot and tibial shock absorption when running on grass, synthetic, pavement, track, treadmill. He concluded that if there was no change in the peak plantar impact there would not be an effect on impact related injuries in runners. But… this is a hot topic and many clinicians have different views on this, here is a quick and partial insight:
Lack of novelty or running the same route. If you run on the same side of the road, this can lead to a functional leg length discrepancy. You are facing the traffic for safety, your right foot is hitting the lower side of the road that slopes to the right. Without you consciously realising it, your brain and body will aim to keep your pelvis level. So, your longer leg will have to overpronate and bend slightly at the knee which will reduce your hip extension to equal your stride length. Your shorter leg will have to increase the foot supination and shorten your stride length. 1 mile of this – not a big problem, but mile after mile, each time you run, the load will have an effect.
A simple fix: Run on a level surface! Or alter the direction on the road but please be mindful of the potential road hazard and always wear reflective gear. Or an even better solution is find new roads and pathways and enjoy exploring and challenging your brain as you go!
Now to the footwear debate. This is truly dangerous territory to enter and people will have strong views, so I will keep it simple and hopefully not upset too many people. In my opinion, buy the shoe that feels comfortable to you and that you would be more likely to run in. Remember to change them regularly, even if they are still looking clean and not smelling too bad! Don’t immediately feel that you must buy the most expensive or be forced into a pair of motion control or stability trainers, particularly if what you have always worn has suited you very well. We all have a signature style of running, as shown by an interesting new study released this year, 2017. If we can run to this ‘style’, we are economical, with reduced effort and reduced injury risk. So a big change in shoe type, particularly without any preparation work or addressing any underlying issues, may change your foot contact which you will then naturally resist and unfortunately may increase your injury risk.
However, if you are having issues, this may be due to your natural foot structure and a change of trainer style or some orthotics may help but with expert assessment, rehabilitation and advice to incorporate it.
There will be one final part to this blog and I am going to keep you in suspense regarding the focus, speak soon… Happy running until then and enjoy the lighter evenings.
To book an appointment with Daniel or any of our other Physiotherapists, please give us a call 01442 331900.