Wanting to have an injury free summer of Running………..Read on!

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by Mike Davis. Senior Physiotherapist, Berkshire Clinics

With the sun finally deciding to show up again this may have inspired you to dust off those running shoes………but are you physically prepared for pounding the streets or hitting the trails again?

The good news is that you can avoid those frustrating running injuries……….provided you are properly prepared and incorporate good training habits.

Step 1

Stick to the 25 percent rule

This means that if you are running 10 miles per week you can increase to 12.4 miles relatively safely provided you feel comfortable and stick to the same pace. The greater injury risk comes if you try changing both your distance and speed at the same time as this will place much more load on the leg muscles and tendons which will struggle to adapt in time. Increases beyond this 25 % rule are not advised as research shows you are more likely to get injured

Step 2

Have a recovery week

Don’t feel you always have to increase your distance every week. Every 4th or 5th week your body will benefit from a recovery week where you drop your mileage by 20-25 %. This will help your body in both tolerating and adapting to the regular running sessions. Maybe instead of running think about non impact exercise such as cycling or swimming in this recovery week.

Step 3

Avoid leaning too far forward when you run

Last year researchers at the university of Colorado Denver looked at trunk flexion-the angle at which runners bend forward from the hip-and found that even when runners where asked to lean forward only slightly it caused significant adverse results on stride length with resulting increased ground reaction forces and increased loading stress to the knees and lower spine. So remember to stay tall when you are running, looking straight ahead and not down at your feet.

Step 4

Do 120 calf raises every day!

This may sound a huge figure – but calf and achilles tendon injuries are some of the most common to inflict runners especially the over 40’s. So a daily routine of calf raises is essential to help reduce this risk by maintaining adequate calf and achilles strength.

Aim for 3 sets of 20 repetitions single leg calf raises. Try to do them slowly (this will be harder!) as this is much more effective for achilles tendon conditioning.

Step 5

Don’t neglect the feet

Add in toe scrunching exercises such as picking things up with your toes to build the smaller intrinsic muscles of the feet. A recent study of Brazilian runners found that performing an eight week training program that focused on foot and ankle strength reduced injury risk by 60% compared with runners who didn’t do the strength program.

Step 6

Do single leg squats for four minutes every day.

Do two minutes on each leg on a daily basis – this is a hugely worthwhile investment as it combines the key lower limb muscle groups involved in running. Stand on your left foot with left knee bent and bend your right leg behind you. Place your hands on your hips for balance and stay tall. Bend the left knee forwards keeping your weight through your heel making sure your left knee does not go past the left foot and return to the start position pushing up through the midfoot-imagine squashing an orange through the middle of your foot.

The Golden Rules

And finally…..remember the golden rules if you want to keep running for many more years – sleep well, recover well and eat well-Good luck!

Leslie Abrahams