Avoiding a Running Injury During Lockdown

Picture the scene; for months you’ve been training hard, pounding the pavements during those dark winter nights and gritting your teeth through sideways raid. Hitting the gym for those hard strength and conditioning sessions and avoiding the naughty temptations of a bad diet.

Then lockdown hits! The gyms are forced to close and you have more time at home. You may think you can put those gym hours to good use pounding the pavements more but the last thing you need now is an injury that will curtail your running during lockdown!

Almost all running related injuries are down to one thing; miss management of the increase of mileage and training load.

I frequently see injured runners come into the clinic here at Mayfair Physiotherapy with injuries sustained from increasing their weekly mileage too quickly, so avoid doing this in lockdown. There are ways and tips to reduce the risk of an ‘overload’ injury, which is essentially an injury caused by doing too much training over too short-a-period of time, and therefore asking the body to do more than it’s capable of.

In Denmark, over 800 runners took part in a study which found that the novice runners were more likely to develop a long distance running related injury (e.g. achilles tendinopathy, patello fermoral joint paid and tibial stress syndrome) if they increased their weekly mileage by more than 30%. The runners who increased their weekly by less than 10% were less likely to sustain an injury.

The numer of years a person has been running will also often play a factor in the onset of niggles and injuries. I saw this first hand when I was training with a running club for the 2017 London Marathon. The newer runners (me included) were managing 40 to 50 miles per week towards the final stages of the four month training plan before niggles and injuries set in. The elite runners on the other hand could run 70 to 100 miles per week with no problems at all. This is because their bodies (muscles, ligaments, tendons and joints) had developed the ability, robustness and strength to withstand the training loads and demands put upon their bodies over the 70 to 100 miles per week.

I am not an elite runner and this was my first marathon, so when my weekly training mileage exceeded 50 miles my body began to breakdown and niggles started to set in. I had to reduce my mileage accordingly which was mentally difficult and felt counterproductive but it was definitely the correct thing to do.

Another way to reduce the risk of injury during lockdown is to increase the body’s robustness to running training loads and become stronger. A running specific strength and conditioning programme will help every runner, be it Eliud Kipchoge, the Marathon world record holder, or a casual weekend runner. This will help maintain good running form and therefore make the body more energy efficient. Good running strength will also increase the body’s ability to withstand the high levels of force put upon its structures (tendons, ligaments, muscles and joints) during training and many miles pounding the pavements.

However, with gyms closed you’re probably wondering how you are going to start or maintain your strength and conditioning programme. There are many ways to replicate gym exercises and weights at home using bands, your bodyweight and bags full of books and bottles of water. These can be used during, for example, split squats, singles RDL’s, calf raises and single leg hip thrusts.

Appropriate running footwear is also a key consideration when trying to reduce the risk of a running related injury. There is no ‘best’ brand of running trainer and no particular running trainer I can recommend over another. However, the main considerations to think about when buying a pair of running trainers are; the fit — do you have a narrow or wide foot or somewhere in between, and therefore do the trainers fit your foot type appropriately? Do you require a neutral or anti-pronating supportive trainer? Is the cushioning appropriate to your running style and type of terrain you are running on?

Here at Mayfair Physiotherapy our highly experienced Physiotherapists can assess your foot and ankle type and your running gait and recommend a type of running trainer that would suit you and your running style.

Another very significant part to anyone’s training play is recovery, which is just as important during lockdown. After all the miles run and time spent training, your body needs time to recover, repair and adapt to the training stimulus. This includes appropriate rest, refuelling and sleep. As well as managing the increase in weekly mileage, another way of aiding recovery during lockdown to help avoid injury is too add in a ‘de-load’ week every 3-4 weeks during your training. This is when the weeks training volume drops by 40-50% on the previous week. It is also important to make sure you are replacing the calories and nutrients used during training with appropriate nutrition. Be sure to also get enough shut eye by catching plenty of zzz’s between training sessions too. Studies have shown a significant reduction in injury rates amongst athletes who manage 7-8 hours of sleep per night compared to those who only managed less than 7 hours of sleep per night.

In summary, here are my top tips to help you avoid a lockdown injury:

  • Follow a specialised training plan from an experienced running coach.
  • Increase your mileage by 10% or less per week.
  • Incorporate a good running specific Strength and Conditioning programme into your training plan.
  • Wear appropriate running trainers that fit your individual foot shape and type.
  • Get plenty of good quality sleep, nutrition and recovery between training sessions.
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