Healthy Running

During this unprecedented time, many of us have become runners when we no longer had access to gyms, sporting clubs, or our usual workout regimes. Here at Target Physio we want to help people maintain a healthy running approach.

How common are running-related injuries?

Up to 50% of regular runners report at least one injury per year. The most common running injuries include: patellofemoral joint pain, medial tibial stress syndrome (shin splints), Achilles tendinopathy, plantar fasciitis and stress fractures of the bones in the foot and shin.

The latest running research shows us that the vast majority of running issues develop due to training error.

This means that we go ‘too hard, too quickly’ and overload our tissues (muscles, tendons, bones) too rapidly.

Our body is capable of incredible adaptation – but only if we allow it time to respond. Although, not all our tissues respond the same way. For example, a tendon takes 24 to 48 hours to finish responding to the load (running/lifting weights/exercising) and may take 6 to 12 months to fully build capacity to tolerate these loads.

Bones can also take significant time to respond to exercise. This is why, when rehabilitating medial tibial stress syndrome (shin splints), we often need to rest for at least 8 hours after exercising, in order to qualify how well that bone has tolerated running/training.

How to avoid injury?

Running training is 100% under your control. Here are three key steps to modify your running load and build capacity and tolerance:

1. Schedule Your Runs

So many ‘weekend warriors’ consistently run their long runs on Friday/Saturday/Sunday and this ‘bunching’ can lead to reduced periods of rest and overload to the tissues. Spreading your runs throughout the week will allow ample time for tissue growth and recovery.

2. Vary Your Speed/Effort/Distance

A lot of people have been taught that you need to run at your race pace consistently and run that same distance in order to improve. The great news is that you can improve your speed, distance and time through varying all of these factors.

In actual fact, most running coaches will recommend 3 different training run ‘styles’:

Is a run that is ‘comfortably hard’ and can be sustained for more than 20 minutes. The pace tends to be about 30sec slower per kilometre than your fast running pace. Or, if you use a heart rate monitor – about 85-90% of your maximum heart rate.

Speed work can look like sprints at a track, or even running up hill. It is any pace that feels ‘hard’, much harder than your tempo or long, slow runs.
The key when introducing speed work, is building up your speed gently and allowing rest afterwards.

Are long distance runs, but slower than your usual or race pace.
Running at 70% of your maximum heart rate, which means being able to hold a conversation throughout the run. Most competitive runners will run 80% of their training runs at this long slow pace, sometimes even 3 minutes slower per kilometre than their fastest pace.

3. Include Strength and Conditioning Training

Up to 50% of running injuries can be prevented through strength and conditioning training. Many runners avoid strength training as they are concerned they will gain weight and slow down.

The good news is that research shows no evidence of increased BMI with Strength & Conditioning training for runners or cyclists. In actual fact, research shows us that when runners build their strength and muscle mass, they actually improve running economy and performance.

If you’re thinking about introducing strengthening, we encourage you to consider scheduling your training sessions and runs to avoid overloading your body. Aim to introduce strengthening on:

Aim for 2-3 sessions/week, but decrease during build up to competition.

Easy training running days, with a gap, e.g. Strength & Conditioning in AM, run in PM.

A strengthening program should only take 15-20min, 3 times per week.

If you’re looking for rehabilitation for a running injury or need some helping getting started on a running or strength and conditioning program, book an appointment with a Target Physio Physiotherapist here.

Physiotherapist, Caitlyn Buchanan, has compiled a series of videos for Healthy Running! Watch here:

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