While August is often dominated with back to school excitement, there is another group of people giddy with anticipation for September……..runners!
With the height of Fall race season being October, many runners start to prepare towards the end of August for upcoming races. Whether you are running your first race or are a veteran runner aiming for a personal best, you are probably building your distance, incorporating speed work and strengthening on hills.
The return of race season is also high season for overuse injuries. Excited to hit the road, many runners go out too quickly, do too much and neglect the importance of a balanced workout regime.
After years of treating disappointed runners who have had to forego a race or who did not achieve their goal because of injury, I noticed the following to be the main contributors to overuse injury in runners.
Going out too quickly
Whether it is distance, intensity or speed, your build should be gradual. Consider using the rule of 10%. If your longest run on week one of training is five kilometers (km), the next week’s long run should only be 10% more or 5.5 km. Your body needs time to adapt and progressing too quickly can add stress that your muscles and joints are not prepared to handle.
Old running shoes
One of the biggest draws for running is that you only need a pair of shoes but they should be good shoes. We suggest replacing your shoes every six months or 500 km, whichever comes first. That might seem like a high turnover but during that time the material that supports your foot and absorbs shock degrades.
To get the most out of your shoes, make sure you are fit by someone who has been trained in shoe fitting that includes watching you walk and stand. Consider buying two pairs and rotating them if you intend to run on back to back days.
Forgetting to stretch
While it may be tempting to go straight from your run to the shower, 10 to 15 minutes spent stretching afterwards can help realign muscle fibres and promote recovery. Ideally you should do a warm up including dynamic stretching and follow your run with sustained static stretches held for a minimum of 30 seconds.
While it makes sense that you need to run as part of your training, many runners fail to include flexibility or strength training for fear it will make them slower or they think it is not sport specific.
Engaging in cross training not only improves your running technique, it increases your power, speed and gives you the strength to conquer varied terrain. The other benefit of cross training is that it reduces the strain on your running specific muscles, decreases the amount of impact on your joints and overall helps to prevent injury.
Running Loops or Unidirectional Tracks
Running one way can be a serious disadvantage. If you run on the road, you might have realized that most city streets are sloped for drainage. If you run in a loop you put uneven forces through your legs if you continuously stay on one side of the road. To even things out, run the first half of your run in one direction and then turn around and run home following the exact same path.
If you run on a track to train, it is also important to change directions. Always circling the track in one direction means that you consistently push off one the corners with one leg creating an imbalance not only through the lower legs but also the hips and low back. Most tracks will change their direction of use on different days of the week. Make sure you train equally in both directions to prevent injury.
Not hydrating enough as the weather gets cooler
People are generally quite good about hydrating in hot weather but sometimes feel it isn’t as necessary as temperatures drop. Regardless of temperature, good hydration is essential before, during and after your run. It helps to dissipate core heat and prevents spasms and cramps. Research suggests that for exercise under 3 hours water should be sufficient but you should consider something that helps with electrolyte replacement for longer workouts.
A great test to know of you are hydrating enough is to observe the colour of your urine. If you have consumed enough fluid, your urine should be close to clear in colour. The only time it should be darker if you are properly hydrated is when you first wake up in the morning.
Assuming it will get better on it’s own
Pain is your body’s way of letting you know that something is wrong and shouldn’t be ignored.
Delayed onset muscle soreness is a normal adaptation to an increase in training intensity, duration or frequency. It commonly last 48 to 72 hours and rates lower on a pain scale of 1 – 10. The nature of the pain should be dull and muscular in nature.
If you experience more intense pain, pain that prevents you from sleeping, sharp, shooting or electric pain or something that generally just doesn’t feel right, don’t hesitate to get it checked out. Studies show improved recovery with early intervention but if you wait it out and potentially make it worse, you may compromise your running season.
I actually advocate preventative treatments for all of our clients but especially our athletic clients. It is a great way to identify a problem before it becomes an injury and ultimately keeps your season on track and your money in your wallet.
Happy running everyone.