Aaah, spring...the sun is shining, the birds are chirping..what a wonderful time of the year. It’s a time for new beginnings and oh yes, running injuries. BMO Vancouver Marathon is just over 4 weeks away and it is usually the first big event of the season for many recreational runners. As you can imagine, this is a busy time for physios as runners are increasing their distances and find that those niggling little problems they have been ignoring are getting out of control. They only have a few weeks left so they need their physio to “fix” them so they can achieve their goals. Sound familiar?
The bad news is that in most cases we can’t “fix” you this close to an event or race. You would need more time and changes in your training schedule that, honestly, most runners are not willing to make.
But there is good news: you don’t necessarily have to stop running and give up on your goals in order to deal with your injury. Sure, we will have more time to spend on really addressing the underlying problems after your event but there are so many things we can do to help while you are still training. With some acute injuries where there is still inflammation and swelling, you may need some rest but soon after you are past that stage of healing you can run again with some modifications.
Here are some things to consider as you are continuing to train while rehabilitating from an injury:
1. Cadence - to minimize impact and improve your efficiency and mechanics, you should be running at 170-190 steps/minute. This requires some time to get used to but it makes a tremendous difference in the stress your body has to withstand especially during long runs.
2. Foot strike - more and more research shows that mid to forefoot strike while running is more efficient and reduces the amount impact on our bodies.
3. Shoes - just before a race or event may not be the right time to change shoes however, slowly transitioning to more minimal (less cushioning) running shoes may be something to consider depending on your injury and your performance goals.
4. Surface - adding variety to your runs will allow your body to adapt to different forces, venture off onto some trails to challenge your body in a different way. This is a great way to prevent injuries in the first place. If you already have an injury, please remember that your body will respond more favourably depending on your injury and the surface so please check with your physiotherapist first.
5. Frequency - some runners decrease their frequency of running as they have more symptoms, however, if you decrease your frequency your body will never adapt to the loads you will eventually expect it to withstand. You should change your training program (see below) but not necessarily the frequency of your training sessions.
6. Cross Training - whether you are injured or not, cross training is a great way prepare your body for race day. Again depending on your injury and your physio’s recommendations consider water exercises, water running, swimming, strength training, cycling even plyometrics.
7. Run/Walk - there is no shame in doing a run/walk program...in fact, you will be more likely to be successful in achieving your performance goals if you do a walk/run program than if you try to just run through your injuries.
8. Other changes to your training program - there are many other things you can change if you are injured to decrease your chances of further injury and promote healing. Depending on your injury you may need to run more frequently but reduce the total distance/week or you may need to take out hill runs or speed work. For example: Achilles Tendonopathy is usually present due to load that was increased too quickly. Therefore, you may do well with taking out the plyometrics/jumping exercises, uphills and speed work from your training program while keeping the volume with some run/walk intervals.
These are just a few ideas to consider regardless of whether you have an injury or not. The best thing you can do is to have your running program (and your body) assessed by your coach/trainer/physio to figure out what is going to work best for you. I would highly recommend using The Running Clinic website as a resource. This is an organization led by experts in running who are continually gathering and analyzing the latest research on the subject. Click here for their “10 Golden Rules of Running” and see you at the finish line.