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Running is probably the UK’s favourite way to get fit and training for a mini-marathon in a matter of months is perfectly doable. Starting out, you need very little kit, aside from a good pair of running shoes and the right weather-appropriate clothing. Also, most of us have some idea how running works and how normal, healthy running looks.
As we begin to log up the miles per week, the chance of injury also rises. This is because the effects of the weaknesses in our technique become multiplied and strength and running fitness take months to develop, not weeks. The top five issues all connect to stress, strains and tears, and are all very common in the first few weeks of running, when we dial up our miles.
The good news, however, is that all of these ailments can be treated and prevented in much the same way, with rest and technique development. First, let’s find out more about what we’re dealing with.
Anterior knee pain is an umbrella term for a wide range of injuries which can arise in the knee. Swelling and a feeling of instability should have you heading straight to your doctor or physiotherapist, but milder issues, such as the feeling of something sharp under the skin, should also be taken seriously. This injury is usually linked to plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendinopathy which, when experienced together, lead to the tibia rotating inwards and the knee falling into the same line. This forces an asymmetrical build up of pressure and the resulting injuries, which include strains and tears, are simply referred to as Anterior knee pain.
Like patellofemoral pain syndrome, patellar tendonitis also affects your knee cap. The patellar tendon joins your kneecap to your shin.
Patellar tendonitis happens because of overuse and is common with long distance runners. It presents as tiny tears to the tendon and causes pain around the knee.
Cut back on hill runs and over training to avoid this injury.
The medical term of runners knee is iliotibial band friction syndrome and it’s described as an overuse injury which particularly affects long distance runners, rather than those embarking on the odd 5k. the root cause of the problem is a misalignment of the patella when active, especially when running downhill.
If you’re looking for a knee support for runners knee then you should opt for one with a buttress or donut, designed to support the knee cap by keeping it in place.
With all of these conditions, it’s crucial to understand several things. Firstly, running mistakes are generally the reason they have occurred, either due to poor running technique or too much training. Next, these conditions are also all connected and once you get one, you should beware, because the others are going to follow unless you take action. Lastly, prevention is always better than cure, but healing is also better than ignoring the issue and hoping for the best.
Your first action on detecting any of these issues is to stop running, sit down, and accept it will take at least two weeks to heal the injury. Ice the area and take non-steroidal anti-inflammatories for the first day. In the coming days, gently massage the area and use tape to ensure correct alignment and support. This period of no running can be very difficult for any runner, but especially those training for a race. However, during your downtime, you can still keep fit by swimming or cycling until it’s time to slowly reintroduce running rehabilitation exercises.
Always listen to your body and make the necessary changes before injuries strike.
At some point, all runners experience aches and pains during races. A very common occurrence, it is particularly frequent in those training for long-distance events.
What is the difference between routine twinges and a harmful injury? When should you stop running and when can you continue through the pain?
After a long run or hard workout, you will most likely experience some muscle soreness throughout the body. However, if you feel pain in one area in particular, it could be a signal that something is wrong.
In a recent study questioning over 1,000 recreational joggers and runners, approximately one quarter responded that they have experienced pain before a race. This pain is typically an overuse injury. Pain is often a warning sign that you are running and training slightly too much, and you may have to slow down your routine to allow your body time to properly adjust to your training.
Once you gain more experience, you will soon be able to recognise your body's own signs of pain, such as the sensation of lactic acid increasing in your legs.
In most cases, if you feel mild pain during a run, it is a good idea to switch to a different running surface to see if it makes a difference or stop running and stretch.
If you are in the middle of a race, as an immediate solution, try changing your running pace down or up for a few minutes.
Once you get home, use the RICE method of rest, ice, compression and elevation of the injured area. This principle is worth applying to most running injuries to ease discomfort and help the body heal. If the pain continues into the next day, do not try and run on it.
If the RICE treatment does not work and the symptoms persist, consider scheduling an appointment with a physiotherapist or GP. If left longer than necessary, there is a risk the injury could worsen, or become much harder to treat.
If you experience any swelling, severe pain, difficulty moving a limb, or tingling and numbness in an injured area, you should cease your running and seek care from a medical professional.
If an area hurts so much that you cannot walk on it, do not attempt to run on it. You should seek medical advice immediately if you cannot bear weight on the injured area.
The only time it is beneficial to run through moderate to severe pain is during rehabilitation, as recommended by a medical professional. It can be beneficial to overcome stiffness and regain muscle flexibility by running through this pain.
This type of pain is typically experienced as you begin exercising, but usually disappears as you start warming up and continue to run.
The pain may move around the body, be inconsistent and felt bilaterally (for example, felt in both knees).
On a scale of pain from 1 to 10, this type of mild pain ranges between 1 and 3. Discomfort or mild pain is common for runners, and is considered safe to continue running through.
After your run, treat the areas of concern using the RICE method of treatment.
This kind of pain appears when you begin exercising, and stays at a tolerable level during your run.
It does not cause you to alter your running stride or to limp, and rarely exceeds your pain threshold. On a scale of pain from 1 to 10, moderate pain ranges between 4 and 6.
It is fine to finish your run during moderate pain if you are almost at the finishing line, but it is best to pay attention to your body. Take a short break of two or three days off from running, and use the RICE method to treat the painful area. It is important to allow your body time to heal, as you will prevent a more severe running injury that would stop you running for a longer amount of time.
Severe pain ranges between 7 and 10 on the 1 to 10 scale of pain.
This pain is acute in nature, and can be felt during, before and after exercise, with the pain increasing as you continue the run, typically causing you to limp.
If you experience this level of pain, you should not continue running, and consult with your doctor as soon as possible.
It is always a positive decision to take some responsibility for our health and lifestyle. Diet and exercise shouldn’t simply be associated with weight loss. They are essential for us to look and feel better from the inside-out. But when making healthier choices, everyone has to start somewhere. The perils of being a beginner can include isolation, quick loss of motivation, and injury.
Becoming injured is very common and can prove to be frustrating and demoralising. We may have been making a mistake in overreaching ourselves, or we may simply experience some bad luck. Whatever the reason for becoming injured, we should encourage ourselves by planning our return. With a little patience and forward thinking, we can get back to running and exercise after injury - more knowledgeable, more resilient, and stronger than ever before.
If you’re going back out om the road or the trails then it’s important to select the best knee support for that added support and protection whilst mobile. There are a number of different running knee support options depending on the source injury you wish to manage, which is why diagnosis is essential in the first instance.
Knee sleeves for running: Typically manufactured from compressive material such as neoprene or 3D knit and designed to offer compression to the affected area which can offer pain relief.
Running knee support: Whilst manufactured from the same materials as knee sleeves a support will typically incorporate a hinge and straps for increased support and the latter acting as external ligaments.
Both variants of braces can incorporate a buttress to support and maintain the position of the patella (or knee cap) since the majority of running knee injuries involve issues surrounding the knee cap.
As quickly as possible after becoming injured, we should try to assess honestly what went wrong. There are several possible causes and we may have experienced a combination of them. In running, inappropriate footwear and overambitious training are perhaps the two most common culprits. We need a shoe that supports our feet and ankles while encouraging a healthy strike and foot position.
They should be breathable enough to encourage circulation but secure enough not to slip or become loose. We should also ensure that they are appropriate for our chosen terrain, whether indoor or outdoor, track or field. We next need to consider whether our training was suitable for our level at the time. It is likely that you want to push and challenge yourself, but there is a thin line between improving and overreaching. Anyone can become injured when pushing themselves too hard, from beginners to experienced athletes.
Consulting professionals can be a very positive step at this stage. A physiotherapist will assess whether there are any underlying causes of injury in your form, gait, or posture, for example. They will also let you know if you are fit again and at what level to train. A coach or experienced runner can take a look at your training plan and advise as to whether you’re aiming to progress too quickly. Try not to see this process as criticism. Assessing fairly and honestly what went wrong takes strength and maturity. It also ensures that the time injured was not wasted and that you can avoid a similar situation in the future.
When we are injured, it is natural that our nutrition might also slip. Comfort foods are a favourite and should be enjoyed as a mood booster in moderation. But our body’s recovery very much depends upon the type of fuel and nutrition it receives. We can take our cue from the form of injury we have experienced.
Muscle and ligament damage recovery could be supported with protein and healthy fats. Stiff and problematic joints can be made suppler by reducing acid in the diet, emphasising hydration, and eating omega oils. We will not need to eat quite as much as when we are training, but we shouldn’t assume that in cutting out calories we are maintaining nutritional balance. We must ensure that we are still meeting our daily requirements for protein, carbohydrates, and vitamins.
An appropriate and effective stretching routine can prevent many of the most common injuries. We should allow ourselves at least ten minutes to adequately prepare our joints and muscles for exercise. Stretching the spine and hips helps to support our posture. We should also give some attention to the hamstrings, quadriceps and calf muscles. Many runners consider that beginning by jogging or running slowly is an adequate warm up, but in reality this can be rather jarring and may affect our longevity as a runner.
Invest time in preparing your body and your performance could improve dramatically. The cool down stretching also helps to eliminate toxins and the build-up of lactic acid that causes stiffness and rigidity the next day.
Running at your most efficient level will help to avoid injury. If your technique is poor you will be putting a strain on your body with every step you take, and these will build up over time into injury. Get a professional to assess your running style to identify any problems before they cause you pain.
Get fitted for shoes that suit your foot and your running style. And make sure you get new shoes if you feel pain, and at least every 600 miles run.
Runners can benefit from strength training in the gym. Build your core and structural strength, including focus on your hips which are often the source of pain in other parts of your body.
Once we feel better, it can be tempting to pick up where we left off. Injury can be a traumatic experience, or frustrating at best. As a result, many of us can want to continue as if it never happened. However, we must take our experience of injury and use it to become more attentive to our bodies. This improves our overall performance and protects us from future injury.
Start slowly. Returning immediately to your previous level of activity or training may seem a time saver but it can be completely counterproductive. If we immediately injure ourselves again or find that we’re in pain, our recovery period can actually become extended. Listen to your body. Start slowly and build up to the desired level in stages. This is unlikely to take as long as you expect but is an essential investment in your running future.
To prevent it from feeling as though time is dragging, set goals. However small, setting goals and achieving them can have a major impact on our morale and sense of accomplishment. Achieving each goal step by step will give us the momentum to progress and improve.
Running too much, too often is a common cause of injury. A simple rule of thumb is to only increase your mileage by 10 per cent each week.
Many runners have a tendency to be self-sufficient. But we should beware of isolating ourselves while recovering from injury as it can be difficult to spot warning signs entirely on our own. Try running with a trusted partner, for example, or booking a few extra sessions with a coach. An extra pair of eyes will give us the freedom to focus entirely on the run itself. Our partner or coach can be watching for any signs of stress or poor form. It can also be nerve-wracking to begin a run alone when we are not yet sure of our resistance or fitness. A short, gentle run or walk with another person can help to build our confidence.
Look after your body with regular days off running each week. Mix up your training routine so you don’t overstress certain muscles or tendons.
If you experience pain that does not resolve with rest, or pain that re-occurs you should consult your doctor.
Yoga, swimming, and other forms of exercise can be a wonderful way to return to fitness. Running can place strain on our muscle and joints until we are fully fit. A gentler, more supportive form of exercise can build our stamina and suppleness. In targeting new groups of muscles too, we may address weaknesses that haven’t been addressed by our current sport, for example. Investigate classes at a gym or join a local club. Many instructors will also have specific advice for runners or those who are recovering from injury.