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Running is a great way to exercise and with many running events in Melbourne taking place between September and December, many of us will be starting or at least thinking about beginning our training for these events. However, as with any physical activity there are injuries typically associated with running. Such injuries include calf strains, achilles tendinopathies, runner’s knee, and plantarfasciitis.

Now there are many biomechanical factors contributing to running injuries. Common examples of this are weak Gluteals and knee pain, low arches and ankle pain, various running styles and the plethora of associated issues. While numerous and diverse, most if not all these injuries have one thing in common and that is certain structures will be overloaded beyond their capacity to handle the repetitive demands of running.

The truth is, there will always be imbalances in the body and no one will fit the gold standard – if there is such a thing. If imbalances were a real issue, Paralympians should be in much more discomfort but yet they can still achieve amazing feats. It’s not to say that imbalances are unimportant. In the short term of 6-12 weeks, small changes and improvements can assist these overloaded tissues, but in the longer term, if you start slowly, these areas which may be overloaded will gradually strengthen and eventually be able to handle your physical demands.

So how do we go about minimising injury? Here are a few tips:

  1. Consider preseason training (i.e now). If you are not a regular runner, suddenly ramping up your running 3-4x/week will increase your risk of overload. There is a reason why many sports have preseason, and running should be no different. Start running shorter distances 1-2x/week. Get your body used to the fluidity of running. Couple this with light strength training another 1-2x/week. Areas you want to focus on: calf muscles, thigh muscles and gluteals. Get in touch if you need help with this.
  2. Get assessed. A running assessment will identify areas that are at risk and we can create an exercise program to strengthen at risk structures but also supporting muscles to improve the overall durability of the body.
  3. Have a running plan. Monitor weekly loads and build up gradually. A good rule to follow is the 10% rule where your weekly mileage should not exceed 10% each week.
  4. Don’t underestimate the importance of rest. I often tell my patients, rest is not just for recovery, it’s when the body gets stronger. It’s when the body has a chance to promote adaptations to the stress you have put on it. Take days off, get your massages in, and eat healthily (our Dietitian Teagan Hollis, can help you with this!).
  5. Know that prevention does not mean you’re bulletproof. Injuries can still happen but it’s about how we manage them. Some injuries can be pushed through, some need rest, some need TLC and some are warnings. Listen to your body and if you’re not sure, best to get it checked.

I know the title of this article says ‘a single piece of advice’, but I couldn’t help myself, and you’re better off for it. This is by no means an exhaustive list and I could delve deeper but in summary, the best single bit of advice for injury prevention for runners, is to start now and to start slowly.
Enjoy the training process and plan to achieve your goals with as little interruptions as possible.