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RUNNING INJURIES – Part I

Autumn is upon us and the running season has well and truly kicked off as runners prepare for events such as the SMH half marathon in two weeks and the famous City to Surf in August.

In our Clinic, many of the injuries the runners are presenting with, around this time, relate to an increase in their training loads and volumes.  It is suggested in the literature that almost 80% of injuries arise due to error in training loads.  Within the “Physio, Strength and Conditioning World” we talk about the Goldilocks Principle – (loading the body not too much, not too little but just right), in order to find the “sweet spot” in training. The volume that loads the body enough to cause adaptive changes but not enough to cause injury.  This is important to take into consideration for runners who are embarking on their training programs for events.

All too often we see the injured novice runner who has seriously underestimated how long it takes to train for events.  They give themselves too little time to build up the adaptive changes within tendons, muscles and joints, and not enough endurance and strength required to tolerate the loading that the event or their training runs place on their system.

In the same way, we see well seasoned runners overloading their systems in an attempt to strive for better times or during training for increased distances.  It is this “boom/bust” cycle that we so regularly see in this Clinic.  This all or nothing mindset that “if I don’t go hard then what is the point in the run?”

There are of course other factors that contribute to injury and there has been a lot of discussion within the running world of the role that biomechanics have to play within the realm of reducing running injuries.  The problem is that once the runner presents with pain, the cycle that ensues is a vicious one.  When we are in pain, we get maladaptive behaviours or patterns.  The body is extremely smart and can work around injury but sometimes cause behaviours or modifications that aren’t necessarily beneficial to the surrounding tissues.

Often the runner will take a period of complete rest when injured and so become deconditioned – then when the pain settles, start running again only for the pain to re-present itself – sometimes worse than before.  At this point or ideally before they get here, it can be beneficial to look at a runner’s technique and biomechanics in order to reduce loading of certain tissues.

If we look at many elite runners, there are many variances in running technique and there is truly no “perfect running form”; our body is resilient and can adapt to the loads we place on it as long as we train it in a way that the load is gradual so that the body has TIME to adapt.

Therefore the answer to increasing running longevity, increasing performance and reducing injuries, lies in educating the runner on running loads and volumes.  A biomechanical assessment can be very useful especially when injured to see where we can shift load off the aggravated tissues plus increase that tissues’ capacity to deal with load – that is building the perfect strengthening/mobility program.

Watch this space next week for safe ways to incorporate these principles into a training program.

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