London Marathon: 7 steps to prevent injuries
Runners´ injuries are often a little like credit card bills to the irresponsible shopper. If you ignore the early warning signs, the long-term costs can be far worse. And just as a prudent investor must plan to protect their assets, a runner must have a strategy to take care of their number one asset: their body.
Simply pounding the pavement for mile after mile is a recipe for disaster. Taking a broader view of how to look after your body during training will significantly reduce your risk of injury. Your training plan should factor in stretching, warm-ups and cool downs, strength work and much more besides. But before we take a more detailed look at your regime, let’s have a think about how you currently use your body while running.
prevent injuries: Your Body
As we’ve mentioned before, the forces acting on the body whilst running are significant. Any postural imbalances in the body further exacerbate these forces and heighten your risk of injury. It’s like hammering a nail without lining it up properly. It soon gets damaged and bent out of shape. It’s the same with the body when subjected to mile after mile of impact from running!
And although you may be unable to totally perfect your posture before race day, there are plenty of straightforward interventions that can help you redress any imbalances before then.
First, you can get your posture formally analysed. It’s always better to see a posture specialist (call us if you don’t know anyone), as an experienced physiotherapist or osteopath will help you counteract some of your imbalances. You can also consider activities such as yoga and Pilates, which help you develop your core-strength and flexibility. Both will have a positive impact on your posture. In any event, it helps to keep these running tips in mind:
- Keep your head and chest up and pointing forward
- Keep your elbows close to your side and relax your shoulders.
As you run, mentally remind yourself of these postural cues to boost efficiency, and consequently put less stress on your body.
Your gait is your ‘manner of walking’, although in this case, it refers to way in which you run. The key element of a gait analysis focuses on what happens to your foot as it strikes the floor with each step.
The vast majority of runners ‘overpronate’ as they run. This basically means that the foot rolls excessively inward as it lands. This increases the chance of common injuries such as shin splints, plantar fasciitis and knee problems. Specialist ‘stability’ running shoes help compensate for this and can be instrumental in guarding against injury. As the body puts too much stress on the lower leg muscles, it causes them to fatigue and the tendon to become inflamed.
Supination (or under-pronation) is a less common gait issue. It also leads to injuries of the lower limbs and joints but doesn’t usually require a specialist running shoe.
It is important to give your physio, masseuse or osteopath the results of your gait analysis. They can work on muscle tension or joint restrictions that are exaggerating any problems. This may not reverse your gait issues altogether, but should prevent it from getting any worse, and will reduce the risk of injury.
A marathon is an endurance event, and relies almost entirely on aerobic conditioning. However, to maintain stamina and guard against injury, some body conditioning is advisable. There are some key running exercises you can do to help you in your quest. The best exercises to include are functional exercises and ones that help you retain good posture. Good examples include lunges, squats, the body plank and leg lifts. Again, seek out guidance on how to perform these exercises if you are unsure. But whatever you do, don’t overlook strength exercises in your pursuit of aerobic fitness.
Prevent injuries: Your Training Routine
4.The Warm Up…
As tempting as it might be to head straight out of the door and get on with your run, you must force yourself never to skip your warm-up. The warm-up is vital in instigating the physiological responses the body needs to cope with the demands of a run.
As the name suggests, a warm-up causes the body’s muscles to heat up, which is important because it allows them to stretch further. In addition, it increases blood flow and thus provides more oxygen to the muscles. And perhaps most vitally, a good warm-up prepares the heart for the more vigorous activity to follow.
As a bare minimum, the warm-up should include at least two or three minutes of faster paced walking, some slow jogging or striding and some dynamic flexibility exercises. Unlike “static” stretching, where you hold a muscle in an elongated, fixed position for a period of time (which is more beneficial after your run), dynamic stretching uses controlled movements to improve your range of motion. This loosens your muscles and increases your heart rate, body temperature, and blood flow to help you run more efficiently. Use small movements for the first few reps, and increase the range of motion as you go. As dynamic stretching is most effective when it’s sport-specific, you should target muscles used for running in your pre-run routine
If you are not yet familiar with dynamic flexibility, take the time to learn the basic principles from a Personal Trainer or Physiotherapist. Modern sports science recommends this form of stretching as part of your running preparation, as is very effective for improving performance.
5…and the Cool Down
You often see novice runners sprint the last section of a training run and then hunch over their knees as they eagerly check their watch to see how fast they have gone. Is this you?! If so, unfortunately you are increasing your risk of injury. Ensuring that you cool down progressively and adequately is important from a physiological perspective. It is the first step in helping the body recover for the next run.
One of the easiest ways to ensure you cool down properly is to ease off (rather than speed up!) towards the end of your run. Decelerate into a slow jog, then walk for two or three minutes.
This allows your heart rate to normalise gradually and aids venous return, which in turn helps prevent blood pooling. You want to avoid blood pooling at all costs, because it can cause havoc with your veins. A gradual cool-down will also help you to restore a normal breathing pattern and help you to avoid faintness or dizziness.
Be sure to include static stretches as part of the cool-down process. These should cover all the most important muscles used in running, including the calves, thighs, hamstrings, glutes, lower back, the IT band and the adductors. If you are inexperienced in stretching these muscles, seek out expert advice by contacting us or your own sports therapist.
You will probably be familiar by now with the phenomenon that your muscles feel sorer the day after the run than immediately after the run itself. The technical name for this DOMS (delayed onset of muscle soreness). Important research from 2017 demonstrates that massage can play an important part in alleviating DOMS and improving muscle performance. People who receive massage also ‘experience measurable changes in their body’s immune and endocrine response’. This is central to guarding against infection and the breakdown of muscle tissue that can be caused by viruses. In essence, a proper sports massage will speed up recovery and allow you to run pain-free more quickly. Massage reduces muscles tension and helps to increase range of movement, so you can move more freely.
There are many steps you can take to help prevent injury. But all are predicated on and enhanced by having the right mindset. You need to be dedicated enough to train regularly and sufficiently, but sensible and cautious enough to rest when appropriate. You need the discipline to consistently do both a proper warm-up and cool down. Putting your health first is a winning mentality.
Getting ready for the Marathon?
We hope this information is useful for you. If you need advice or have any questions about how to prevent injuries our sports therapist, physios and osteopaths can help you. For more information about our treatments, please contact us. You can find us in Mill Hill Broadway and Islington. We are always happy to help. If you like this blog, please share!