Preventing running injuries in novice runners
It is often at this time of year when it starts to become a little more sunny, that people take up running. Unfortunately there is strong research evidence that running injuries are significantly more likely to happen in novice runners than more experienced runners (Videbaek et al., 2015). However, many of these running injuries are preventable.
In order to get all the wonderful benefits of running, without injury, we offer some top tips below for preventing injuries whilst you run.
Tips to avoid running injury:
1. Build up distance gradually
This is the most important thing you can do to prevent injuries and many people underestimate how gradually to build up.
The NHS Couch-to-5k running plan outlines how to do this very effectively. The programme recommends about 3 runs each week, starting by alternating 60 seconds of running with 90 seconds of walking for 20 minutes. Each week, the running time increases, gradually building to a 5km run after 9 weeks.
If you are a little more experienced with running, we recommend starting with slow runs and to only increase distance after three or four runs of the same length.
2. Warm up
Start your run with at least 5 minutes of walking, gradually increasing the speed to a brisk walk. This helps to slowly increase your heart rate and boost circulation to your muscles.
3. Stretch after running (not before)
Stretching produces a relaxation response in the muscles, which can be very helpful after running if they are feeling a little tight. For this reason, it is better to not do long stretching before running as the muscles need to be active at this time.
4. Strength training
Strength training alongside your running regime can prevent many common injuries. Important muscles to include are the gluteal, quadriceps, hamstrings and calf muscles.
For examples of exercises, have a look at this programme.
5. Improve your running technique
There are many different styles of running which work very well. By building up your running time gradually, you will naturally find your own style. Try to:
- keep your arms relaxed and bent at about 90 degrees
- stay upright and slightly leaning forwards
- land on the middle part of your feet.
If you are unsure and would like further advice, visit a specialist for a biomechanics assessment.
Tips if you get injured:
1. Seek advice from a medical professional
- Get a diagnosis, determine the severity of injury and seek guidance about how best to treat the injury.
2. Follow ‘PRICE’
- Protect your injury from further damage, by using a support
- Relative Rest for the first 2-3 days
- Ice: wrap a cold compress or frozen peas in a towel and ice the area for about 15 minutes every 2-3 hours. Do not put ice directly on the skin
- Compression: use a compressive bandage to limit movement but don’t leave it on whilst you are sleeping
- Elevation: support and elevate the area a little above the level of your heart
3. Avoid ‘HARM’
- Heat - can increase swelling, so avoid hot baths
- Alcohol - can increase bleeding and swelling
- Running or excess exercise - can cause further damage
- Massage - can increase swelling and bleeding
Common running injuries we see in the clinic:
- Achilles Tendinopathy - causes pain and weakness at the Achilles tendon, which joins the calf muscles to the heel bone.
- Plantar fasciitis - causes heal pain. The plantar fascia is a band of tissue connecting your heel bone to your toes.
- Anterior knee pain - causes pain at the front of the knee around the knee cap and can have many different causes.
- Bursitis metatarsophalangeal joint - causes pain and swelling around the base of the toes.
Physiotherapy services at ALO:
If you are a novice runner, come for a physiotherapy running biomechanics assessment at ALO, where we will set you up with a programme of exercises designed to help you to improve your running technique and prevent injuries.
If unfortunately you do get injured and you would like treatment; at ALO we offer:
- Rehabilitative exercise programmes
- Electrotherapy: Human Tecar Therapy, Ultrasound
- Manual Therapy and Soft tissue techniques
- Biomechanics Assessment and running gait re-training
- Strapping and taping