Last updated: 23-Aug-18
By Karina Teahan, Chartered Physiotherapist
When asked to do this article I decided to reflect on my last couple of years running and pick out all the things that I have done well that have kept me running, and the things I neglected, or didn’t do quite so well, that may have contributed to injuries along the way. They are not in order of importance, as each may resonate differently with each of you.
1. The Glutes
I am going to describe a little circuit here that will take you about 20 minutes to do. For me it really fires up and activates my glutes before a work out but it is very valuable even as a stand-alone session.
Interestingly, it is also a little warning sign to me about an imminent injury. If one side feels quite different to the other I know it is something I need to address and so I modify my week’s training plan accordingly.
Start with 5 reps of each to begin.
Side bridge to neutral spine position
Single leg squat
Side lying down leg lift
Double leg bridge progress to single leg bridge
Single leg dead lift with weight
High step up
4 point on your knees opposite arm/leg lift
Lateral step up
Sleep is absolutely vital and most of us do not get enough of it due to busy lives. At times, an extra bit of sleep may be more useful than that extra early morning session. Sleep has been getting lots of press in recent times and rightly so.
The term “Sleep Hygiene” is probably familiar to many is you. Lack of sleep is associated with many health issues including inflammation, chronic diseases, stress fractures, mood problems, and poor concentration.
The following are some tips to help you get a better night’s sleep. Pick a few for 2018 if you think they apply to your situation:
- Maintain a consistent daily schedule.
- Reduce your daily coffee intake.
- Turn off the computer or TV.
- Don’t go to bed on a full stomach.
- Don’t go to bed on an empty stomach.
- Engage in regular exercise but try not to have your sessions too late in the evening.
- Limit beverage consumption before bed (so you won’t have to get up to go to the toilet).
- Keep your bedroom dark and quiet.
- Invest in a comfortable mattress, pillow and bedding.
- Ideally go to sleep and wake up using your internal alarm clock, however this is a lot easier in the summer months rather than on a dark winter’s morning.
3. Running Shoe
It is advised by most shoe companies to change your runners every 300-600 miles. This is quite a large range and I think it is very individual. I end up changing my runners quite frequently, not because I do high milage, but because I am on my feet all day and wear runners at work. I value a good trainer and my feet and think it’s important to invest in them.
Various trainer types suit different foot profiles and running styles. Lots of specialised running stores will assess your running style and how your foot lands and can advise on the shoe to suit you. It is worth doing this so you will buy the proper shoe to suit you and your training demands. I love a bit of colour to add fun to a run session, so if you can get colour, comfort and quality all in one then all the better.
4. Foam Rolling / Mobility
If you do not own a foam roller then buy one. Every running house should have one as part of their running first aid kit. Use it consistently even for just 5 minutes 3-4 times per week. Roll your quads, gluts, and hamstrings. Also, tape 2 tennis balls together to really get into your calf muscles effectively.
5. Strength & Conditioning / Weights / Pilates
Strengthen your whole body! As runners we do not use just our legs but also our core, arms and upper back to maintain good efficient running form. Consider this as essential as any run session in you weekly training plan.
Aim to do two sessions per week but not on consecutive days, especially if you are lifting heavy weights, as you may be sore for 1-2 days after each session (don’t worry this is normal and referred to as DOMS or EIMI). Don’t be afraid to lift heavy, but do progress slowly to this goal. Ideally we should be able to dead lift 80% of our body weight and squat 33% of our body weight. This may take a long time to build to, but it is a target.
Add eccentric exercises to your programme no less that once a fortnight. This might include:
- Heel drops for your Achilles.
- Nordics/flywheel/hip extensions for your hamstrings.
- Squats for your quads.
Some useful exercises to do at home with free weights, or in the gym, to add up to a nice strength & conditioning circuit may include:
Shoulder bridge – progress from double leg to single leg
High step up
Single leg squat
Push Ups or modification of same
Most successful runners are successful because they keep training, stick to a plan, pay heed to injuries early on, and take a rest when needed. Listen to your body and back off a session if necessary. Nip injuries in the bud and go to see a Chartered Physiotherapist to assess & diagnose you properly. They will steer you on the correct path to recovery.
7. Increase by only 10%
Make sure not to increase your weekly training load by more that 10% at a time. Also make sure that your high intensity training is no more than 20% of your total work load. The body needs incremental load to progress and get faster but it also needs time to adapt to new changes and not become injured. With a sudden acute increase in work load, tendons are particularly vulnerable.
A large increase in medium term work increases the risk of developing a stress fracture, so pay heed building up those miles. Maintain a running diary and keep your workouts in check. RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) is quite a useful tool to measure the intensity of your training and has been shown to correlate well with more high tech measuring systems.
|Zone||Heart Rate||Pace||IPE* (1-10)|
|Recovery||<70% of Max HR||**||4/5 (Easy)|
|Extensive Aerobic||70-80% of Max HR||5/6 (Comfortable)|
|Intensive Aerobic||75-80% of Max HR||6/7 (Steady)|
|Aerobic/Anaerobic threshold||80-90% of Max HR||8 (Comfortably hard)|
|VO2 Max||90-100% of Max HR||9 (Deep and rapid breathing)|
|Speed||N/A||9/10 (Relaxed sprint)|
* Initial perceived effort on a scale of 1-10.
8. Running Surface
Try trail, grass (if not too muddy unless you are a lover of those heavy cross country courses!) rather than road. In particular, I do not enjoy street running, although I appreciate it is a must for some during these winter months. I believe the up and down and uneven nature of footpaths on hard concrete is not good for our legs. I would choose the treadmill instead.
Change your direction periodically if you train on a cambered surface or track so you balance different demands out the “inside” and “outside” legs. Running on loose sand is difficult (unless you have done the Marathon des Sables or something similar in which case you can ignore this part!!). Try to run on the sand by the water’s edge (if flat) as it is a bit harder.
9. Join a Running Club
I have made the most wonderful friends (and met my husband!) through running. It is a great sport and doing a run session in the rain or dark is a lot more fun if doing it with friends. Being part of a run club also gives you access to structured sessions, advice and a chance to get better and faster. It is also a privilege to wear the club singlet and compete as part of a team.
10. Have other Hobbies
I love running but like anything else you are passionate about, it can cause heartbreak when injury comes along…..and it inevitably will at some stage. Although we hope that all injuries will get better with time and rehab, sometimes they take longer than we want.
To make that journey a little easier, I believe it is so important to develop other life interests will have different demands on your body to running. Something that will give you enjoyment even if not running. This may be another form of exercise (if your particular injury allows) such as swimming, cycling or rowing. Or, it may be a completely different hobby such as painting, reading, cooking, baking, learning to play a musical instrument.
Having other things in life will keep running in perspective, or, at the very least help distract you. If you feel you really are overwhelmed by the loss a running injury has caused you, it would be worth seeing a sports psychologist to help manage your feelings a bit better. Sports psychology has a massive role in sports injury as well as sports performance and it is a resource we do not tap into enough. Sarah Cooke has done some excellent pieces for RunUltra on different running psychology areas.
All images Karina Teahan.