5 Common Running Injuries And How To Avoid Them
Because nobody has time for being injured.
You've got your gym membership and your shiny new running shoes and you're ready to get FIT. Congrats! So it's safe to say that the last thing you want is to end up with a dodgy knee/ankle/back a few weeks into your new workout regimen and have to spend the next month on the sidelines. Luckily, we spoke to physiotherapist Darren Chin, who works at the Centre for Health and Human Performance (CHHP) and their clinic in BXR (a very swish boxing gym used by none other than Anthony Joshua) for his tips on how to stay fit and healthy. Here are the symptoms you need to look out for and what to do if you get them.
What are the most common injuries you see in people new to running?
"Those that are new to running are at a higher risk of injury due to overtraining," says Chin. The classic too-much, too-soon sort of injury, where your first run felt so amazing that you repeat it non-stop for a week even though you felt sore after the second one. Here are some of the biggest offenders in the running injury world.
Lower back pain: It sounds random, but when you consider the details it makes a lot of sense: "This is often due to insufficient core stability strength, along with inadequate pelvis control." If your core muscles and hips can't hold your body in place efficiently as you pound the pavements, your lower back will jump in to compensate. It sounds helpful, and if you were escaping from danger on a one-off occasion it would be (think being a caveman running away from bears), but long-term it puts a strain on your lower back muscles leading to pain and discomfort.
Runner's knee: Also known as patellofemoral pain syndrome, which is "a dull, achy pain that originates beneath the kneecap, a typical injury for new runners" according to Chin. This might lead you to believe the classic myth 'running is bad for your knees'. It's not in general, but if your quads are very tight they can pull your kneecap out of position so it doesn't track properly across the joint. This can cause friction inside your knee. Ouch.
Achilles tendonitis: This affects the back of your heel and lower calf, and happens when your Achilles tendon gets inflamed. This tendon connects your calf muscles to your heel bone, and can start as a dull pain that quickly develops into a sharp one. It can be caused by doing too much too soon, having very tight calves or doing a lot of challenging running sessions, like hills or sprints.
Plantar fasciitis: It sounds like a kind of plant, but it's actually an inflammation of the tissues in your heel and the sole of your foot. "Plantar fasciitis causes a sharp stabbing pain affecting the arch of the foot," says Chin. It can be caused by wearing shoes not suited for running, having very tight calves or overtraining.
Shin splits: "As the name suggests, this causes pain on the inside surface of the shin." Also known as medial tibial stress syndrome, shin splints can be caused by a number of injuries, like an inflamed tendon or a stress fracture. It can be difficult to tell exactly what's behind it yourself, which leads us to our next point...
What do I do if I feel any of these symptoms?
The best rule of thumb is to stop running straight away. Seriously. Give yourself a break and see how it feels in 24 hours. If you're sore all over your legs and they feel better after a stretch or a warm bath, it's probably just regular muscle soreness and you need to let yourself recover. If the pain is only in a very specific place, like one of those described above, and gets worse when you move it, it's more likely to be an injury.
If it's an injury, what do I do next?
Go to see an expert. Googling it is tempting, but if you want proper advice you'll have to see a pro. Head to your GP or, if you can afford it, book in with a private sports physio who can treat the symptoms and give you exercises to prevent it happening again. Chin suggests having a biomechanical assessment, which looks at how your whole body works together and will help you find out any weak spots so you can fix them before an injury occurs.
How can I avoid getting injured in the first place?
There are a few really simple steps you can take to safeguard yourself against injury. "Investing in good trainers, pacing yourself and getting a running buddy can help," says Chin. Having good quality running shoes that suit your body can relieve undue stress on your joints and muscles, plus training with a friend means you can keep each other in check if there's a risk of pushing it too far.
" Following an adequate stretching and foam rolling routine can help in reducing the risk of injury and assist with recovery time," Chin adds. While it's tempting to flop straight onto the sofa after a run, give yourself a chance to wind down by easing out your tired legs with a stretch and foam roll. Your body will thank you.