Running Injuries – The Risk Factors
The unfortunate statistic is that almost half of all runners, no matter the level, injury themselves in any given year. Our primary goal at Running Logic is to help you identify areas that might lead to injuries and help you prevent them. Remember if you are running you are progressing your fitness, training programme and moving closer to your personal goals.
Many of these injuries are not long lasting but they are preventing you from being a runner, or from exercising.
The key to running well involves a combination of risks we need to assess and review, looking at our individual requirements and understanding how we are loading our joints, tendons and muscles with each and every stride we complete.
The first thing to recognise is that pain is a symptom! Ignoring pain means we are continuing to load a tissue that is already struggling. It might not mean we need to stop running, please check with a professional for your individual requirements, but we need to try and get to the bottom of the problem and understand what we need to do and change to remove this excessive load on the stressed tissue.
So how many underlying causes of Running Injuries can you think of? We have managed to find eleven in all. Can you think of another one?
underlying causes of Running Injuries
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1. Tissue Tolerance
There are two reasons tissue tolerance comes into play, firstly you are new to running (or returning) and do to much mileage to soon, secondly you are starting training for a race or event and you increase your mileage too quickly. The longer the distance you are training for the more time you should allow to work on tissue tolerance.
Essentially our body needs time to adapt. The tissues, including tendons, muscles, bones, joints and cartilage all adapt to the forces we place on them. There is however a difference between building load and over stressing the tissues, when they will struggle to adapt in time or recover form previous training. With a good programme your body will adapt to the new stresses naturally and build tissue tolerance.
So start slowly, build your weekly training volume carefully, certainly no more than an increase of 10% lift in any one week and please remember walking is as valuable in early training as running.
Build a more durable runner
2. Previous Injury
It is very unlikely you are going to begin your training without any previous injuries, running related or otherwise. This is normal however it is how you manage these injuries that is essential as pain will settle over time but the underlying movement faults and restrictions can remain in place related to that injury. Are you continuing to manage them as part of your training week?
What we do know from research is that the biggest predictor of an injury is a previous injury in the region. Understanding your body and how you move can greatly affect your ability to avoid injuries. If you are beginning training for a ½ or full marathon you are placing your body through a hugely stressful training programme, so understanding your body will be key to getting through that.
Help your body keep you on the road running through your training programme by making sure you look after the areas that may be susceptible to issues. If in doubt we have a team of physiotherapists, who are running coaches, who can help you assess and plan management for injuries or contact your local provider for assistance.
Build a more efficient runner
3. Running Technique
Our team have accumulated over 10 years of experience working on improving running technique for our clients and so understand the importance of this for your overall training programme. Runners love to run; this makes sense as it is a great way to train. However, running with poor form or technical issues creates stress on your body. How can this stress affect you?
There are two primary areas to consider here, firstly running efficiency. If you are completing long distance running, anything over 3k up to marathons and beyond. If you are wasting energy bouncing up and down or twisting through your shoulders to help propel your forwards, you are leaking energy that should be used to help propel you forwards. Technical flaws can be identified, understood, and therefore trained or corrected as part of your programme. The result is you save energy, become more efficient and are more driven towards forward momentum.
Secondly injury risks can be reduced. Many of the poor patterns that you can see on runners around the world are related to poor technique, including over-striding, twisting and shuffle running. These patterns stress your body and create load on tissues that can lead to over use injuries. It sounds so simple, yet so many runners could do with working on their technique, much as an elite runner would every week.
Build a stronger technique
4. Over-Training (or lack of recovery)
This is a common issues with runners. Essentially it can be hard to define the difference between training that is tough (mentally and physically) and this is really tough (I am not completing my full training programme). So what is the key element to look out for? Take your resting heart rate first thing in the morning, before you even get out of bed and repeat for 3-4 days to work out an average. If during your training over the following weeks your heart rate is raised by more than 10% these are the early signs your body may be struggling and may require more or better recovery time. Adjust your training to your current fitness levels.
Other key observations to look out for include:
- More irritable than normal
- Not sleeping soundly
- Struggling for motivation
- Arms and legs feel sluggish / heavy
- Sudden weight gain
- Workouts are inconsistent – think pacing
- Your friends tell you, you are not quite right
- Remember that recovery can also be a key factor in this, the right recovery at the right time and the correct amount. There are also plenty of people cramming too much training into their weekends. Balance your training and make sure you have good recovery time to allow your body to adapt.
Build a durable runner
5. Training Programmes (or lack of)
The best way to approach this is by remembering you are an individual, and as such your training programme should be targeted at your current fitness, running capability, dynamic strength and more. Addresses base building when required, develops your tissue tolerance allowing you to build confidence that you will and can achieve your personal running goals.
If you are training for a marathon, for example, and putting your body through 4-6 months of training you don’t want to leave your training programme to be your weak link. The earlier you find a suitable programme and understand your body the more enjoyable you will find your training experience. At Running Logic we are ready to help you through a number of different programmes and planning to help you understand how you move.
Build a better training programme
6. Dynamic Strength
Running is essentially a single leg sport, based around great rotational control. If you are a male you might take around 55,000 steps to complete a marathon distance for a female it is about 62,000 steps. So hopefully you can see why your dynamic strength is important. Again, many runners love to run and run as part of their training. Understandable. However, under video analysis many lack the dynamic strength to support their body effectively.
This doesn’t mean you need to hit the gym and start lifting heavy weights, far from it. However, 2-3 sessions a week, either on a non-running day or after a run, working for about 20 minute strength sessions including exercises like lunges, planks, rotation planks, step ups, lateral line jumps and hops will all help. You have great access to these through our Exercise Series to help you understand good form and give you exercise ideas.
Get stronger to run stronger
7. How you move, as an individual
Your movement patterns are an essential part of your running patterns and technique, and by now you will be seeing a theme of how all these injuries risks are linked together. Many of you will be reading this while sitting down on a train, at your desk or possibly at home in a comfortable chair. It is the curse of the modern world that we spend so much of our time sitting down, then we expect to run using our muscles in a new range. Just take a moment to think about the position of your hips while riding a bike and then the position when running, particularly at push off. They are very different.
Being in a sustained position allows our soft tissues to adapt so they will lengthen if continuously in a stretched position, likewise they will shorten if they are in shortened positions. Simple really, and in fact the reason many of us suffer the issues we do with our bodies. Over time this affects movement and affects how we run.
Stretching to maintain good movement along with effective warm ups before we run are an essential part of your training programme and will help you reduce your injury risks further. So no running out the door first thing in the morning for your run or to run to work. It is not a good session plan and will accumulate trouble down the road.
Develop better movement to create a better runner
8. External Injuries
Sorry to have to add this one in however to cover all the options it is essential, and unfortunately it does happen. There are so many factors and a few of these you are unable to control, the current favourite is running in the dark and landing awkwardly on uneven pavement or in a crack. Others as we move through the year include icy or wet conditions.
There is no way to cover all the eventualities here so please be sensible about your equipment, where you plan to run, the time of the day and lighting available. Many will not have much choice but combining a number of poor options increase risk. The Running Logic injury management tool can help you identify your injury and get the right treatment pathway going.
9. Your Genetics
This is another one of those uncontrollable events for runners. Your genes will dictate the underlying make up that can influence your running, like tendon durability, dominant muscle fibre type, joint alignment and how flexible you are naturally. None of these issues alone will stop you from running however they might affect your training programme design. There are too many factors to consider them all but you can adapt to help maximise your movement and running.
If we look at your natural flexibility, and consider that you are naturally more flexible than normal, we call this hypermobile or double jointed (don’t worry you don’t have two joints). This affects all your soft tissues, so ligaments, muscles and tendons and allows greater movement in your joint range of movement. This may mean you need to manage your weekly volume and consider other forms of training to help build your stamina through walking, cycling or swimming and certainly your strength programme is more important.
If you have a family history of arthritis you may need to consider your training programme, particularly if you are struggling with pain. Variation is key here, change the types of training you undertake, complete more low impact training to help build your base, and develop your longer runs over a slower than normal time frame. This might mean more bespoke training programmes will work better for you with increased guidance to help you achieve the best results, and most of all enjoy your running.
Creating an aware runner
11. Your Running Shoes
This is essential with hundreds of different options on the market now and huge strides being made in the shoe technology, so it is an increasingly difficult area to understand. Our suggestion is to keep it simple if you are changing shoes.
Firstly, always take your current shoes in with you when you buy your next pair and check the ones you intend to buy are a close match to your current shoe. Think about the incline of the shoe form heel to toe, type of shoe – motion control, stability, cushioning, minimalist etc – and the brand you are currently wearing. You naturally increase your risk form injury according to research, if you dramatically change your shoe type and that can be moving towards a more minimalist shoe form a cushioned or the other way around. It changes the stress on the tissues and can lead to new problems.
Don’t just assume buying the next release of your current show will work either. All the shoe companies tend to change angles and upgrade support levels with new technology when they release new versions. Check it all matches.
If you need insoles in your shoes, it is important to understand your shoe type will not replace this, it might at best aid it gently. So, our final point here is simple, go to a store were you can try the trainer on and run outside in them up and down the street. If they feel comfortable and you feel supported when you run then they are the shoe for you, if not keep trying. Should you find a pair you like and can buy two pairs and switch them during training to change the stress on the shoe it can help you get to race day with good trainers ready to go.