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The Key to Preventing Running Injuries

By Dr Brad McIntosh - Doctor of Physiotherapy at Sydney Physio Solutions

Physio and Sports Medicine have come a long way in the past few years with better diagnostics, more effective exercises, taping and treatment techniques. But one thing hasn’t changed…it’s a lot easier to prevent an injury than to fix it.

In a world that’s faster, shorter and sharper in all ways, it’s easy to “get to it later” or focus on activities with more immediate returns. Injury prevention isn’t sexy, but we know it works, and when you’re investing time, money and energy in your running, the last thing you want is an injury that brings it all unstuck.

Here are my 5 key points to preventing running injuries:

1. Be consistent with how you work your body

The bones, muscles and tendons adapt incredibly well to regular forces, but they hate big ‘ups’ and ‘downs’ in training levels. Start your training well before an event and slowly build it up. If you miss a week or two for travel or a bad cold you have to drop the training back a notch (around 10% per week) as you resume.

2. Train smart, not just hard

Remember that the two biggest factors promoting quick recovery between sessions are a good diet and adequate sleep. Everyone’s different so it’s impossible to say how much sleep is perfect, but the top athletes are probably getting more than you and I. As a rough guide, aim for between seven and nine hours and try to keep the timing of falling asleep and waking up consistent.

3. Get good advice on how your body works

This includes its restrictions and limitations. This forms the basis for putting together a regime of appropriate injury prevention exercises tailored to you. This could be gluteal (butt muscle) strengthening, core control exercises, specific stretches, self-massage strategies etc. The potential list is endless, so make sure that what you’re doing is right for you and giving the biggest return for your time and effort.

4. Get your equipment right

For every runner, the key ingredients are good socks and appropriate shoes. Is there a “correct” shoe for your foot? This is debatable. Current research suggests that the single-most important element of a good running shoe is that it feels good on your foot. If you run in it and it feels right, go for it and stick with it. If you lose confidence in your shoe, change it up and find one that sits on your foot just right.

5. You definitely don't need to worry and react every time you get a niggle. As a runner, there are going to be times where things are a bit sore. Just listen to what your body is telling you and get in to see your physio if:

1. It lasts more than 48 hours;

2. It's getting worse over time;

3. You notice swelling in a joint or bruising in a muscle.

Stick with these principles and you’ll significantly reduce your chances of getting a running injury. If you’re unlucky and something goes wrong, get it looked at quickly by a top running physio.

Happy running!

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All opinions and advice are of  Dr Brad McIntosh. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace advice from your health care professional. The use of this content is undertaken at your own risk. Always consult your healthcare professional.