Top Tips on avoiding injury

I am lucky to have some great people around me to offer running/fitness advice. I spoke to my Physiotherapist and asked her to share her support to the wonderful Virtual Runner UK community. This month, Kerstine is focusing on how to avoiding injury and her top tips to keep you running:

My name is Kerstine and I own KHPhysiotherapy in Nottingham. I’ve been running for *ahem* many years and have a keen interest in running related injuries. I’ve always been fit and active and started rowing in my 20’s. This lead onto triathlons then ultra-running. I opened my clinic this year and now treat all sorts of MSK injuries as well as offering gait analysis, sports bra clinics and runners workshops. I see lots of runners new and old and often the advice is the same “ease back on the running and focus on getting fitter and stronger”. With this in mind I thought I would share my top 5 tips on avoiding injury as a runner. If you have any questions please get in touch through the website or on my Facebook page.

Top tip 1- Get it assessed

If you get injured go and see a sports physio who specialises in running injuries. If your car started making a funny noise you would (hopefully) go to the garage who would advise you on the problem and (hopefully) the solution. Most people go to the GP first as they experience pain initially and will usually be told to stop running, rest and take medication. In many cases stopping running is not necessary and you may well be able to continue but with changes to your training. Get it checked early!! This may save weeks of continuing problems and you can work on strengthening the problem area.

Top tip 2- be patient (she says, being the most impatient person!!).

Our bodies are amazingly resilient pieces of engineering and things will improve but there is a system of healing that has to be put in place and this varies for different types of pains and injuries. An acute injury such as a sprained ankle will go through the typical phases that we all recognise – swelling, bruising, inflammation, pain and restricted movement. It gradually gets better and we are able to do more on it. If you simply rest through this repair process you can be left with pain and restricted movement and what we would probably say is ‘ankle weakness’. If you return to high impact activity too early you risk damaging the healing tissues; don’t stress the healing tissue enough and you risk being left with a weak/stiff/unstable ankle. Most injuries take 3-6 months to fully recover and pain from tendons such as the Achilles can take longer to settle. Try to shift your focus to exercises that don’t aggravate your symptoms and continue to train around your symptoms. This comes firmly back to ‘tip one- get it checked out!’.

Top tip 3- Build up slowly!!

If you are new to running build up slowly as your body needs time to adapt to the physiological requirements of exercising. Running is high impact and the forces going through your knees can be anywhere between 4-8 times your body weight. If you start running from a fairly inactive background your joints, muscles, bones, tendons and ligaments won’t be able to withstand these forces and you may well experience pain. Try following the C25k programme and build up over 6-9 weeks. After that work on style and speed before progressing too quickly to longer distances. In your first year aim for a good 10k race and then look to improve your time. If you want to improve your running work on one thing at a time so if you want to improve speed then add some short speed sessions into your weekly runs but start off with very short burst of speed. Keep your distance short though. If you want to improve on hills then find a hill and start with short bursts of hill running, 5-10 secs initially will certainly get your legs and heart/lungs working. If you start to get niggles ease back on the thing you’ve changed.

Top tip 4- Find your own pace

We’re all individuals with different needs, abilities and goals. We all are genetically different and have different body types. Some of us have more fast twitch muscle fibres (can run faster) some have more slow twitch (run for longer). For many people running is about the social aspect and I’m certainly not advocating ditching those running buddies. However, if you want to improve your running have at least one run a week where you find your own pace, you may be surprised that its actually quicker than you are used to. If we run slowly there tends to be more of a breaking force applied and this can lead to excess loads on areas such as your hips and knees. Finding your natural rhythm and pace may help reduce niggles. So ditch the gadgets, head out the door and just run!!

Top tip 5- Get fit to run.

If you start running you will get aches and pains but that’s perfectly normal for new runners. If you just run you are have a significantly higher risk of being injured than if you run and do some other form of exercise. Just by adding 1 session of resistance type training per week is enough to lower your risk of injury. Sessions such as circuits, kettlebell classes or HIT type classes are ideal. These sessions will improve overall strength of muscles such as the quads and glutes. Kettlebells are a great piece of kit to have at home and there are thousands of 10-20 min home workouts on YouTube.

So that’s my top 5 tips. Next time I’ll be covering the top 5 exercises you can do at home to help improve your running. Please see my website for more tips and advice. Happy running everyone