Are you still having fun when you’re running? As a Chartered Physiotherapist we see a lot of runners at our clinics in Compass Physio, unfortunately most of the time they are injured! Running is a brilliant form of exercise and it’s a fantastic way to reduce stress, improve mental well being and your physical health. However, as with all sports, it doesn’t come without its hazards. From my experience, the most common causes of injuries in runners are due to overloading and not enough rest or recovery time (aka stubbornness). Now don’t get me wrong, stubborness is a fine attribute for a runner, but choosing to ignore or push through your pain is not the smartest move. You wouldn’t ignore a warning light on your car, so why would you do it when your body gives you a signal that it needs a service? Ideally you want to be a runner for life, not just a one off event such as a marathon. Therefore, it’s important to be aware of ways to maintain a healthy relationship with your body and your running needs.
Planning: The old saying, fail to prepare – prepare to fail is very true for running. A lot of people take up running after a period of inactivity, without any actual plan other than to do an event. Without a proper graded training program or advice from an expert, then your body will not be able to tolerate the increased load. This can lead to injury, disappointment and failure to enjoy the event. So invest the time to plan your training in the lead up to your event.
Partner up: Some people like to run alone, giving them some mental headspace and focus on their running. However, running with a partner or joining a club (It doesn’t have to be an athletics club, there are numerous social running groups out there) can improve your overall running style, pace, knowledge and enjoyment. So if you’re starting out in running then join your local club, if you want to take it to the next level, get a coach.
Nutrition: Getting the right type and amount of nutrition into your system is key in order to prevent injury. If you’re lacking energy when running, your running style goes out the window, which can lead to poor biomechanics and excessive loads on your joints, causing injury. Make sure your body is accustomed to the food and energy drinks you use, don’t try something new on the event day, this could cause gastro or an embarrassing “Paula Radcliffe” moment. Proper nutrition will also promote recovery after a run helping ensure you are ready for your next session.
Cross Training: It’s not all about running! In order to achieve better results with your running cross training such as swimming, cycling, yoga, pilates, circuit class or rowing could be introduced. A good training plan will always advocate for this type of approach that is designed to compliment your running style and give your body a break from the running load.
Recovery: We often think of recovery as just stretching, however recent studies suggest that sleep is the most important aspect of recovery. Sleeping gives your body a chance to repair and replenish following the microtrauma caused doing a long run (this is why it’s sore to come stairs). Active recovery such as a walk, light jog or a swim are really good ways to recover. Do not sit on the sofa for 24 hours watching netflix and eating ice cream!! Sedentary activity will only prolong your recovery following a big event such as a marathon, gentle movement is often a better option.
Enjoyment: Finally, running is supposed to be fun for the most part. Always remember why you’re doing the activity, it might be for better health, in memory of a loved one, a challenge to yourself or some other reason. They can all involve some pain along the way, but ideally we want to have a bit of fun. If you’ve lost that sense of fun because of an ongoing injury, then you should contact your local Chartered Physiotherapist to help address the issues. We can help you get the fun back in your running.