Episode 9 - Are you running towards an Injury?

April 25th 2018 |

I am not a runner, cyclist or kayaker but I am thinking about doing an endurance event in September next year which requires a fair bit of each. Thinking about that has got me thinking about injury prevention in endurance athletes (or people who do not class themselves as athletes but want to complete an event like me). At this time of year we have a number of patients who have injuries as a result of training for endurance events like marathons, half marathons or multidiscipline events. Many of these injuries are preventable but some people start to question the benefits of endurance event training. I always say that the benefits massively outweigh the negatives. Benefits may include improvements to cardiovascular health, mental wellbeing and general health.

There are a few main points we should consider when setting up a programme to participate in an endurance event. The one thing I have on my side is plenty of time. Many people who come in think they can fit a lot of training into a short space of time. I think that achieving a better baseline fitness before starting into specific event training is a good idea. I see lots of people who have decided on an event and then nearly at the start of their training programme they have picked a time they want to achieve. This time is essentially an arbitrary figure that has been plucked out of the sky. I plan to set myself a baseline and then work from there. I will establish how much running, cycling or kayaking I can do right now and then build a programme around that.

According to Benoy and Mathews (www.function2fitness.co.uk) 'certain groups of runners have a higher chance of becoming injured. These include

  • Runners with less than one year experience

  • Runners with previous injuries (within one year)

  • Runners who run more than 40 miles (65 km) a week

  • Sudden increase in speed or distance of running

  • Women with low bone density (Osteopenia or Osteoporosis)'.

I would go a step further and suggest that the first 2-3 years of running are risk factors and highlight the fact that increasing speed or distance too quickly is likely to lead to injury. It is commonly written that people should not increase anything by more than 10% per week to avoid injuries. That might mean increasing distance, frequency or duration of runs by more than 10% but not all of these at the same time. For example, if I find through baseline testing that I can run 3 miles just now then next week the maximum I should run would be 3.3 miles. That way, to get up to say 10 miles would take me more than 10 weeks. I do not need to run any more days of the week to achieve this. I only plan to increase one thing at a time remember. You should have a rest every 4-6 weeks as well. That doesn’t mean sit on your chair and watch TV for a week. More of an active rest where you change things up for a bit. So, if we build in those rest periods through the year then it should take me closer to twelve weeks to go from 3 miles to 10 miles. This is a more conservative approach to many running programmes.

They type of training you do should also be changed regularly. Don’t expect to just do long slow plodding runs and expect to avoid injuries. Mix that up with trail runs, intensity runs, other things to cross train and make sure you have a relative rest week every 4-6 weeks.

By doing things this way, they can be more sustainable in the long term. Remember that a new fitness programme or goal that you have should help form part of a healthy lifestyle rather than be a quick fix to a problem. I'll keep you updated on my progress with training and injury prevention but please let us know if you have any questions or if you have experienced a multidiscipline event previously and have some excellent advice to keep me injury free.

Ross Smith

Physiotherapist

www.injuryshetland.co.uk