With the Chevron City to Surf just around the corner and marking the beginning of spring, there is no better time than now to be out and running around Perth.
The health benefits from running are widely acknowledged, but as all runners know, this can also come with some aches, pains, and an increased risk of running-related injury (RRI). In fact, experts say the recreational runner is at risk of sustaining 1-2 RRIs per year.
For anyone who is training for an event like the Chevron City to Surf, this can hamper your preparation, training and enjoyment of the event. So what are these risks, and what can we do about it:
Incorrect training load:The most common error I see made by recreational (and professional) athletes is changing their load too quickly. Whilst our bones, muscles, joints and tendons are excellent at adapting to increasing running distances, if we increase these distances too much, too fast or too often, we will get excessive tissue breakdown which leads to injury.
For example, if you have been running roughly 20km per week, then you try to do 50km per week, you are leaving yourself susceptible to injury. And, just to make things more challenging, our body likes constancy. If you were to get sick for a couple of weeks, reducing your normal running volume and then try to go back to your previous volume too quickly, you are also at risk of RRI.
What to do: These basic rules will ensure your body has time to adapt, strengthen and be able to carry you over the ground for each and every run:
Never increase your overall weekly running distance by more than 15% on the previous week.
Only ever increase your longest run by 10% at a time.
If you have more than ten days off running, build back into it slowly.
Recovery time: After a heavy running session, our body has usually had some very minor tissue breakdown (don’t worry, this is normal). It then repairs itself to be a tiny bit stronger than it was previously, allowing us to go a little further or faster next time. If we run again too quickly after a big run, we don’t allow the body enough time to recover and the micro-damage can compound and cause an overuse injury.
What to do: As a basic rule, try to allow about 72 hours between your big, hard runs. Short runs, cross-training, stretching or strengthening are all great alternatives during this recovery period.
Shoes: Despite the enormous amount of research into footwear, we still don’t have much evidence that certain shoes help reduce the rate of RRIs. Given the myriad of options available to anyone looking for a pair of shoes, and the clever marketing campaigns around, this can make getting the right shoe for you a tricky task.
What to do: I suggest finding a shoe that is comfortable, supportive and suited to your foot-type. Chat to a physiotherapist or a podiatrist for more specific information.
It is also really important that you gradually wear your shoes in. Don’t pull them out of the box for the first time on race day!
Surface: Running surfaces will have a different effect on different people. If you have sore feet, ankles, knees, hips or lower back, then reducing the number of kilometres covered each week on concrete or asphalt can help. This can be as simple as running next to the path rather than on it. Importantly, you need to get your body used to running on the surface you will be using on race day.
What to do: Try running 30-50% of your weekly kilometres on your race day surface and the rest on a softer surface like grass, gravel or an athletic track.
What else?If addressing your training loads, recovery time, shoes and running surface doesn’t seem to help any persistent aches and pains, then also consider revisitng the following:
Biomechanical running assessment
Preventative strengthening and activation of specific muscles
Foam rolling and trigger point release
Hydration / nutrition
Don’t be scared off by the possibility of some soreness, the benefits of running far outweigh the risks. Remember, it’s better to wear out than rust out!