Steph Davies BSc (Hons) MSc Sport Ex Med MCSP
Specialist Sports Physiotherapist
It’s that time of year again and the parks and towpaths of London are lined with runners of all ages and experience; beginners starting out to achieve those New Years’ goals, and the hardy marathon runners ramping up the mileage in earnest.
Here are a few tips on how to keep your body fresh and injury free this season.
Tips for Beginners:
Firstly, well done for getting out there against all instincts in the cold and wet winter weather! The most important thing for anyone new or returning to running after a long break, is to have structure to your training and ensure adequate recovery time.
You can structure your training by measuring time or distance. Whichever you choose, start with something easy and within your comfort zone to allow your muscles, joints and tendons to get used to the movement patterns again. If everything goes well and you are not too achy and sore, then the next time you run you can increase the time or distance by about 10-20%. It’s really important that you get enough rest (at least two whole days per week, preferably spaced out) to allow the muscles, tendons and joints to repair and get stronger. Try cross-training some days with a low-impact activity like swimming or cycling to vary the load.
Choosing a good pair of running shoes appropriate for your foot type is important, as the repetitive nature of running means that small things can make a big difference. A good running shop can help you do this. Or if you want to take things one step further, book in with a running-specialist physiotherapist to assess your biomechanics and alignment from head to toe – they can give you individualised tips on areas to work on to increase the efficiency of your running style, as well as independent advice on footwear.
Tips for Intermediates:
So you have been running a while and know your body well – which bits get tight and which bits get achy. It is often worth investing in occasional sports massage to work away the tight bits, which in turn can help prevent aches and pains. If you prefer to do things yourself, a spiky ball or a foam roller is a great way of self massage, particularly to the commonly tight areas around the calves, lateral thigh, gluteals and lower back.
You still need structure to your training programme that includes at least one full day of rest per week, preferably two. Try adding some speed and interval training to your schedule to improve your running style and efficiency; for example, 6-10 sets of 400m sprints with 90-120 seconds rest between sets. You’ll definitely feel the burn!
Tips for Advanced Runners:
You guys are body experts and have probably had your movement and running assessed at various times by shoe fitters, running coaches and physiotherapists. You already use massage (foam rollers etc. or sports massage sessions) to keep your body in balance. You may or may not have had injuries in the past and have a good idea about what to do when you feel a pain that doesn’t go away with rest.
For seasoned runners like you, it is worth working on some serious prevention work. If you have a few months to iron out some old problems before your next big race, then make a list of your previous overuse injuries and make sure you are doing all the right things to stop them cropping up again. If in doubt, get a biomechanical assessment by a running-specialist physiotherapist to check that you are doing your exercises correctly. As with all levels of runner, you must also get enough recovery time – at least one full days’ rest per week.
Strength and conditioning can play a big part in improving performance for an advanced runner. Resistance training for legs when done with excellent technique can improve alignment, joint stability and muscle conditioning for endurance. Always use exercises that train the movements relevant to running – e.g. free weight split squats are much better than the leg extension machine, and work with relatively low weights but high repetitions (20+). Working on your core strength and endurance is also very important.
Above all else, whatever your running goals, enjoy yourself, train hard, and stay fit this 2011!
Physiotherapy Advice for Runners
Steph Davies is a specialist sports physiotherapist who understands runners and running injuries. The benefits of seeing someone like Steph at Physio4Life is you are guaranteed and accurate diagnosis to any problems and you will be able to work with the physio to get you back to running as quickly as possible with good follow up service where we will advise you on conditioning and technique to improve your running and prevent injury.