Discover the Truth Behind Running Injuries
The most important point to note when talking about running injuries is that the best treatment is prevention. Sports injury prevention concentrates on the fact that if your training or racing pushes your muscles, tendons and ligaments beyond what they are conditioned to tolerate you expose yourself to an increased risk of developing one of the many running related injuries.
This therefore suggests that balanced training and racing, where steps forward in speed and distance are tempered and gradual is the most effective way of avoiding running injuries. The Egoscue method is one effective way to minimise pains and dissolve chronic pains.
Even as an ultra marathon runner, you can minimise the risk of repetitive strain injuries and silence the typical know-it-all comments that you are picking up injuries because you are doing too much.
Firstly if you are ambitious enough to integrate interval workouts into your training program, ensure that they are paced only slightly quicker than is comfortable. Similarly limit your exposure to high eccentric forces such as those exerted whilst running down hill, especially at pace.
No workout should cause you to noticeably change your running technique or rhythm. Always have one or two reps left in you when you have finished.
I personally warm up for a minimum 10-20 minutes prior to starting a session and always use the first rep or two reps as additional active warm-up, building the pace. I will always therefore complete 11 reps if I intend to do 10, as the first one never counts! Many of you will have the experience also that the first rep is always the hardest. This is your body saying it is not thoroughly warmed up!
Is stretching at all beneficial?
The benefits of stretching are well documented on the web, in books and promoted by just about every personal trainer the world over.
However I am going to be a little provocative and say that the many people who recommend running stretches so enthusiastically, don’t really understand what they are designed to do and how these stretches are supposed to compliment a distance runner’s training program. This is especially true I believe when we talk about an ultra marathon runner's training routine.
In general, stretching is promoted to decrease the risk of developing sports related injuries, in this case, specifically running injuries. However, doing specific running stretches after a killer gym workout or track interval session will not, cannot and will never prevent muscle soreness.
Ultra runners must distance themselves from the view that a ‘fix-it-all’ stretching program protects them from repetitive strain sports injuries.
It’s here where I acknowledge that some athletes especially those indulged in explosive sports use stretching as a conditioning tool, which allows them to put huge strains on their bodies. The very nature of their sport requires them to push their muscles to or beyond their natural limits. The obvious examples are sprinters and jumpers.
It is here where the benefits of running stretches for distance athletes runners were sewn, but in my view, from an ultra running perspective, also where they should have stayed.
The act of stretching itself cannot be viewed without risk. If you are not conditioned to tolerate a strenuous stretching regime you stand a real chance of developing running injuries from the very activity that you believe the harder you hit the more protected you are.
I can speak here from my own experience. I spent two years in a post-natal stretching class, and although the trainer was extremely experienced and the stretching exercises correctly supervised, I continuously picked up aches and pains from pushing my body beyond its limits.
Physiotherapists often prescribe stretching as a means of injury rehabilitation. This is often helpful, but you should always trust your own body awareness. If a stretching program does not start to help in 4-6 weeks, then there is a good chance it isn’t going to.
If you are going to follow a stretching program you should aim to stick to a few simple rules. Stretching should be done regularly, not just once or twice per week.
Warm up thoroughly prior to doing your running stretches, and start with the larger muscle groups first. Try and isolate the muscles you are stretching, i.e don’t stretch muscles that are in tension, for example don’t stretch your hamstrings whilst standing. The stretch should never work against the muscle.
Always keep in mind that stretching is aimed at restoring a useful range of movement in your muscles, appropriate to support your running technique and will only help to prevent running injuries to a certain degree.
There is no need or benefit trying to do box splits or spending hours trying to touch the back of your head with the soles of your feet. In general stretching in such a manner can only put your joints at risk.
Statistically as ultra distance marathon runners we are all going to face running injuries at one point, but it is us more than anyone who is taken by surprise when injury strikes.
How many of you have questioned how Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS) or Plantar Fasciitis just crept up on you without warning?
Nevertheless repetitive strain injuries which affect the ultra marathon runner, can appear just like that.
We can however do a lot to help prevent injuries from becoming chronic.
Always listen to your body, if you notice something, try and assess its severity. Running through the pain is the worst thing you can do. I would obviously be sympathetic to the claim by some that running through the pain close to the finish line in an ultra distance race is justifiable.
If an athlete makes the conscious decision to push on and take the consequences, then I agree. This is a sacrifice we will all make at some point, but doing so in training for example, with nothing at stake is definitely not advised!
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