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Bulletproof: insider’s tips to avoid running injuries

Just to help you along, here’s some tips on how to avoid getting injured and interrupting your training.

Shoes

When you’re looking to buy your next pair of shoes and you want to get something different, or if you’re looking for a faster racing shoe, I’d highly recommend keeping certain specs similar between all your shoes. Try to get similar heel-to-toe drop (aka. heel-toe offset) which is the height difference between the rearfoot and forefoot sections of your shoe. Use Running Warehouse to look up the specs. It’s an American site so the prices are US and usually not available in Australia, but the specs are spot on.

Other specs to watch for Pronation Control (aka. support) and Stack Height (overall “chunkiness” of the cushioning). If you’re looking for a faster shoe for shorter distances or just for races, go for a slightly lower Stack height and Pronation Control level than your training shoes. If you’re looking to increase your training distance, move up 1-2 levels in Pronation Control.

Stability exercises

No longer just for rehab, these exercises should be part of your weekly routine. Stability exercises, exercises that challenge your balance and control of movement, are great for two reasons: they improve your ability to maintain form (one of the biggest causes of running injuries) as well as serving as an early warning sign of a loss of stability (usually the result of fatigue or other injury).

If you’re not sure which exercises are suitable for you, test yourself or ask your physio or coach. They can incorporate them into your program.

Periodisation

What the hell does that mean? It’s a fancy way of saying “take it easy once in a while”. It’s not about resting, but about varying your training load to maintain the stimulus to the body as well as allowing enough recovery time to minimise your chance of overload injuries. So if you add an easier/shorter/slower week every so often, you’re reducing your injury risk and maximising your gains.

If you’d like to incorporate periodisation into your running program, try making every 5th or 6th week different. Reduce your running by half and add in extra strength sessions and some cross-training. Even throw in some recreational stuff like bushwalking or different session types like yoga.

Warning signs

It’d be lovely if there were just one or two things to look out for as early warning signs of injury. Unfortunately we’ve got to be a little more analytical than that. Here’s the combinations to watch for:

  • Sudden loss of performance (increased HR and/or slower paces) – this means that you have a deficit somewhere and have lost technique efficiency, which frequently leads to injury
  • One-sided or unusual soreness – this indicates localised overload and running never overloads one side or one area unless it’s compensating for a deficit
  • Stiffness or soreness the morning after training – this tends to indicate inflammatory pathology

If you notice any of these for 2-3 consecutive runs, contact your local running-specific physio.

Strength training

Different from stability training, this is the heavy lifting that leaves you fatigued and shaking at the knees (well, kinda). It improves strength much faster than stability exercises but it works hand-in-hand with it, rather than replacing it. Stronger muscles are only effective if they work in sequence and efficiently.

If you need some guidance on strength work, there are plenty of options. You can look at one of our sample running-specific online strength programs to perform in your local gym or home set-up or you can organise a session at one of our clinics to get a running-specific program tailored to your deficits and goal race.

Post-session nutrition/hydration

To make the most of the session you’ve just completed, you need to give your body the best fuel and building blocks to reconstruct your bones and muscles to be stronger than before. And here’s where it gets hi-tech. The scientifically devised, clinically researched, best ever high performance post-session intake is…(drum roll)….milk & Milo.

Yep, milk & Milo, the old school kid’s drink. It’s got energy, protein and a few other goods bits to outperform every over-priced recovery formula on the market. Just make sure your portion matches your session length and intensity – 2L of the stuff after a 20min work out may/will ruin any gains you’ve just made.