ACTIVE INJURY PREVENTION FOR ATHLETES
According to research from Sports Medicine Australia, 70% of runners will experience an injury each year. Ask just about any runner what their worst nightmare is and they’ll likely say, getting injured!
So if the majority of runners fear injury and yet most will endure one, it begs the question, is there anything that can be done to prevent or at least reduce the your risk of injury?
The good news is that the answer is, YES! There are many steps a runner can take to reduce their risk of injury. In-fact, active injury prevention should be a part of every athlete’s race preparation. But aside from following a personalised and adaptive training program, try incorporating the following 5 actions into your training regime;
Stretching is an essential part of any training program with the simple act of loosening a muscle before training and offering many benefits. It helps to prevent muscle aches and pains as well as reducing the likelihood of muscular injury. Elite athlete, James Thorp, suggests that, stretching should take place after a warm up routine. Static stretches are a great way to increase muscle efficiency and improve overall form. However, if you are already injured, it is important not to overstretch the affected muscle. When stretching, you should feel minimal tightness but never any pain. Whilst stretching is a ritual, all athletes should consider including in their routine, stretching alone will not prevent injury. It should be supplemented with a variety of other injury prevention activities.
2. Build core strength
One of the most common causes of injury in runners is muscle weakness and just like a house needs a good foundation, so does your body. In running, your body’s foundation isn’t its legs. It’s your core.
Having a strong core doesn’t just mean having abs. Instead, think of the core as the hips, glutes and the inner and outer abs.
Research suggests that the hip muscles are the most neglected when it comes to core strength. The hips are the only muscles that work to stabilise the body when running. Outward acceleration of the body’s centre of mass is where most injuries occur and this is why building core strength in the hips is especially important. Doing 10 to 20 minutes of core strengthening a day will decrease your risk of injury significantly and will help you run as symmetrically and as efficiently as possible. If you have suffered an injury, training your core will also aid the rehabilitation process, however it important to speak with your doctor before doing any strenuous exercise.
3. Shortening your strides
Over striding is a common cause of injury. Over striding refers to when your foot lands too far out in front of your body. It is possible that your longer strides affect the way the foot strikes the ground causing impact stress to travel up towards the leg joint. Studies by Irene Davis at the University of Delaware have shown that runners with high impact ground strikes have a proportionally higher risk of developing shin splints and other common running injuries.
The shortening of your strides by as little as 10% can have significant benefit. It forces your feet to land flatter, which causes a softer impact than landing on the heel. This allows the knee and hip joints to absorb less energy.
As a result, this simple adjustment can make all the difference over the course of a running season. It’s also worth noting that any change in techniques should be built up, so try to make this change over a short run and build up from there.
4. Recover with cross training
Cross training is a term used to describe an athlete training in a sport other than their usual sport. The goal of cross training is to improve overall body performance and it does this by taking advantage of the effectiveness of one training method to negate the shortcomings of another.
One of the problems with training for one particular sport is that certain muscles are used less than others, causing them to weaken. For runners, training is usually focussed on the lower body and quads, leaving the upper body and hamstrings unused. Cross training on the other hand gets the neglected muscles working while decreasing the impact on the primary muscle groups. This is also known as active rest.
Supplementing your regular training program with cross training also adds variety and helps to maintain motivation. Cycling, yoga, swimming, deep water running, Pilates, elliptical training and even walking are all great cross training activities and will help keep your aerobic fitness up and burn some extra calories.
5. Listen to your body
One of the most powerful injury prevention techniques is also the simplest, and that is to listen to your body.
Injuries don’t tend to appear from nowhere. In fact, there are usually plenty of warning signs that your body needs you to lessen your training load. Soreness, aches and pains are early warning signs to keep an eye on. If pain persists or worsens during training, it is essential to stop and take a recovery day.
If you are new to running or have had a lengthy lay-off, don’t jump into running long distances. Instead, gradually increase your weekly training loads by following a clear and structured plan that values recovery as much as activity and that adapts to you and your progress.
Run Theory’s training programs are designed with rest in mind, while machine learning continually monitors your fatigue, adjusting training load and optimising recovery. The result is an intelligent coaching experience that carefully balances both the physical training and the requisite recovery to help you run faster, faster.