Sick of stretching?
Are you fed up of the foam roller?
Does your pre-run routine take longer than your actual run?
As a runner, I would say that I find three or four new articles every week telling me something I must do.
Here’s my current running routine: I must get a full 9 hours sleep, have a carb loaded breakfast, wait no less than 90 minutes, stretch every muscle in body, perform my technique drills, foam roll my everything, perform my mobility drills, attach my heart rate monitor, perform my warm up, work out my training zones, find my $200 running shoes with custom orthotics, plank for 20 minutes, perform my breathing technique drills, post my intention to run on Facebook, start my GPS tracker, run, take a gel, run, take a photo for Instagram, run, perform a cool down routine, perform post workout stretches, and eat within 60 minutes after my run.
No, I don’t really do this.
So, what must we do?
Well, that depends.
Runners do lots of things in addition to just running, some of which I mentioned above. Many of these things are to improve performance and some are to help prevent injury. So, what really works? Today I’ll be talking about what you can do to prevent running injuries. Over the next few weeks, I’ll give you a simple guide to help you make sensible decisions about your training.
There has been a lot of research conducted on running injuries and sports injuries in general. This means that you can find a study to support just about anything now. This makes things confusing. What should we focus our efforts on?
As a Physio who specializes in running injuries, I focus my attention in sequence that best reflects the balance of evidence available right now. Going from the most important to the least important, here is how I prioritize injury prevention strategies:
- Load Management
- Strength Training
- Running Technique
- Other Stuff
Scene of the Crime
When someone comes to me with an injury, it’s like an investigation. A crime has been committed: the runner’s body has been assaulted by an injury. We need to find the culprit. First off, we draw up a list of suspects. Right at the top of the list is the husband – no wait, that’s murders – right at the top of the list is load management.
Well, that sounds boring, doesn’t it?
Yes, yes it does.
And yes, yes it is.
Have you ever noticed it’s the boring stuff that really works? If you want to lose weight, you have to eat healthy and exercise. If you want to get good grades, you have to study hard. If you want to get promoted, you have to work overtime. If you want to run a marathon, you have to run a lot.
So what is load management, anyway?
Basically, it’s how much you run. To be more precise, it’s how much and how hard you run.
Amount of running x intensity of running = total running load.
Think of a typical running week. You have one steady pace 8k run, one 6k tempo run, one hill training session of 5x200m hills and one 20k slow run. Notice the intensity is inversely related to the duration? You don’t do fast long runs – that would be silly. This week you did 25k. Your intensity was ‘medium’ because your short runs were fast and your long runs were slow. They balance each other out.
You total running load is ‘25k medium’ for that week.
We can be more objective than this and I’ll be writing about how to do that in the next couple of weeks. If you don’t want to miss that post just click here to subscribe.
How much that ‘25k medium’ changes per week and per month is your change in training load. How quickly it increases is the variable that is most strongly correlated with injury.
If we want to prevent running injuries, we should be obsessed with monitoring the rate of change in our training load.
This is by far the most important factor in determining your chances of developing an injury. More important than your shoes, more important than your technique, more important than stretching or foam rolling. More important than anything.
Now ask yourself, how much time do you spend thinking about your training load? How much time do you spend analysing your training load? How much effort do you put into determining how fast you are increasing your overall training load. Are you tracking your training load over time and looking for patterns?
Not many of my injured runners are spending a lot of time on this. I haven’t read many articles on popular blogs or in magazines about this either (with some notable exceptions). You know why?
That’s why it works.