Foot Massage

Playing The Long Game

Physiotherapist, Neil Smith tells us that runners should look beyond remedial action to address recurring issues and to create longer term physical benefits...

How do you best deal with recurring injuries?

Firstly get a thorough assessment from a physiotherapist with good knowledge of running injuries and running technique. If an injury is recurrent then it’s likely that something, be it lifestyle related or running related, is continually overloading the problem area. Exploring running technique, training schedule and any limitations in strength and mobility throughout the body will all be valuable ideas.

Then the hard work starts! Recurrent injuries will often need a change in routine and consistent work with specific exercises to help prevent them. Listen to your therapist. Habits are tough to break, so stay focused and make time for the new ideas.

What prehab activity lessens the chances of injury?

This can be very different depending on the type of problems a runner typically comes up against. However, as a general rule good strength and conditioning training within a schedule can certainly help prevent many running related injuries. This can include a combination of low rep/high weight work and high rep/low weight work. Also including high tempo running specific plyometric exercises, such as skipping and box jumps, can be very helpful for most.

There is also good research to suggest cross training can help prevent overuse injury – basically do some cardio training that isn’t running. Get on a bike; jump in a pool or head for the cross trainer. Work your heart and lungs whilst giving your specific running muscles a rest.

How important is an overall assessment in setting a runner on the right road?

I would say an overall assessment can be very useful. Whilst there is no perfect ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to running technique, there is certainly something to gain from a running assessment. An assessment can help to identify stiff or weak areas that may need attention to cope with running training, such as the need for improved hip extension, thoracic mobility or gluteal strength.

An assessment can also highlight any glaring flaws within your running style. As I have said, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ running style but we do know that certain issues, such as over-striding with a heel strike, can predispose you to specific injuries. A quick look at your default running style can certainly be useful.

What is ‘free energy’ - how can it prevent injuries?

Tendons are like big springs with huge stores of potential energy, that when allowed to stretch and recoil efficiently during running, create kinetic energy ie the power to absorb and propel you. Amazingly, your Achilles’ tendon can take over seven times your body weight in force. Utilising this ability, will help prevent injury by reducing the load on muscles and consequently your joints. In order to harness this ability, try two sessions per week of resistance training and plyometrics such as squats, lunges, box jumping or skipping, mixed in with 3-4 runs.

How important is good nutrition/proper hydration?

Nutrition and hydration are vital. The old adage of ‘you are what you eat’ is very true. Injury prevention, recovery and performance are all dependant on having healthy tissue. It is therefore paramount that they receive the necessary hydration and nutrients to heal and grow efficiently. If you are going to put all the effort in of getting out for a hard interval session, you are wasting a lot of energy if you don’t hydrate and eat well pre and post workout.

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