• Golden Rules for Runners | Reduce Your Risk of Running Injury

  • Running is one of the most popular sports in the world yet 79% of runners get a injury every year – with many of these being avoidable. We have 4 golden rules for you to help reduce your risk of getting a running injury.

    For a sport or exercise medium that is so, so popular and given that it is something humans have done for a long, long time, why is the injury rate so high? Here is a few stats as to the incidence or running related injuries:

    • 79% of runners get an injury every year(2)
    • Nine out of every 10 runners get a running related injury (RRI) or sickness when building up to a half or full marathon. (1)
    • In any 2-week period, up to 1 in 7 runners reported a new RRI or illness symptom.
    • 7.7 running injuries for every 1000h hours run, where-as novice runners have a rate of 17.8 injuries per 1000hrs of running. That is over 1 injury for every 100hrs of running!

    That is a seriously high rate of injury and then when you learn that 60-70% of all those injuries that runners get are due to training error – that leaves a lot of room for improvement! Training error is basically when you ask more of your body that it has a chance to adapt to (excessive distance, sudden change of training routines). Our bodies do positively adapt when challenged, but only if they have time to do so.

    So, given that most running related injuries are simply down to you and you alone, here are some golden rules to help guide you to reduce your odds of being one of the 79%. These aren’t hard and fast rules as everyone is different but they serve as a good guide for most.

    Golden Rules for Runners

    These rules not only reduce your risk of injury BUT they also help you give your body the time to adapt that it needs. Why train and exercises if you don’t give your body chance to make the positive adaptations?

    1. Strengthen

    You can’t go wrong, with getting strong.

    It won’t slow you down, it won’t bulk you up, but it will improve your bodies ability to handle the loads you put through it and ultimately improve your resilience. Don’t strengthen with high repetitions, strengthen 2-3 times per week with high load, so heavy that you can only do 8-10 repetitions and aim for 3 sets of 8-10. See the image below for the equivalent forces that your muscles have to handle with each step. You’ll see that your quads and calves do A LOT of work.

    muscle forces running soleus muslce

    2. Have rest days

    There is little point training if you don’t give your body time to adapt and after a heavy trainin gsession for example, your tissues adaptation time is 48-72 hours. This is because in order to improve (get fitter, fatser, stornger etc), we need to stress our bodies. After we have stressed our tissues, you body breaks down some tissues, on a microscopic level in order to lay down new ones. If you often load you tissue before it has had time to synthesis new, stronger tissue, you are just weakening the tissue and risking overload.

    Give you body time to adapt, that means days off from running, where you can do other things. For people that a new to running, in your first 1-02 years of running, try not to do any days in a row and have 2 days off after your long run each week. Those that are more conditioned can handle more

    muscle recovery time, runners, overuse injury
    Tissue degradation and synthesis after a workout – notice at 24hr, there has been more degradation that synthesis

    3. Follow the 10% Rule

    Build up your training load by 5-10% per week in most cases, no more. Any more than that and your body will struggle to catch up. Check out the graph below to see how increasing from 10-20% increases can over double your injury risk as well as the one below that showing the “sweet spot” that you are aiming for. Slow, steady build ups for the win.

    Slow and Steady Wins the Race

    10% rule running runners

    acute/chronic workload ratio to avoid injury running

    4. Sleep well

    Lack of sleep, or lack of quality sleep is shown to increase risk of injuyr. Not only that, on the flip side, if you get a good amount of quality sleep, you can get better performance an drecovery!

    You need quality sleep for enhancing:

    • Growth hormone release and muscle protein synthesis: This means the ability for skeletal muscle to adapt and repair
    • The learning of new skills and memory: Sleep is crucial for memory consolidation and motor learning(3)

    Here are some tips from a good study to help guide your sleep routine:

    • Encourage 7-9 hours per night and consider naps during the day if less than 7 hours sleep per night
    • Sleep in cool (but not cold), dark room
    • Avoid using electronics or personal devices in bedroom
    • Limit technology use 1 hour before bed
    • Reduce caffeine after lunch, and minimise alcohol at night

    Remember, up to 70% of running injuries are due to training error. Not your arches, not lack of stretching and probably not because of your shoes! Sorry but most running injuries are down to you, not your tools. The good thing about this though is that if you run smarter, you can hugely reduce risk of injuries and at least stop minor injuries and niggles becoming full blown injuries that stop you doing what you love.

    If you are injured though, see a physio with experience and know-how in treating runners to rehab it and build back resilience. Don’t be scared that a physio is going to tell you to stop completely, most of the time, a change in running load is needed, not a stop.

    Written by Physiosteps Principal Physio, Shaun Clark

    RunFx running assessment ashburton