1) Wear the right gear: The Shoe.
You don’t want to be buying the wrong pair of shoes if you are doing a lot of high impact activities, such as running. There are many things to look for when picking the right shoe but the two main points I will focus on are cushioning and the condition of the shoe.
Cushioning:Cushioning is what separates you from the ground.
Your running style, weight and running surface will all determine what level of cushioning you need. Runners who hit the ground with their heel first will require more cushioning then those who hit the ground with their midfoot or the ball of their foot due to the greater forces that are going through their bodies. People who run or walk long distances on hard surfaces will also require greater levels cushioning than those who run or walk on softer surfaces as they are spending a greater amount of time with their feet hitting the pavement. Lastly, the heavier you are the more cushioning you should have as you are putting more force through your body.
Good cushioning will help to protect your hip and knee joint from wear and tear and protect your feet from arch pain and heel pain.
Most people will hold onto their shoes until they are almost in tatters. But shoes should be replaced every 500-800km of running or walking, even if they are not showing obvious signs of wear and tear. This is because the foam cushioning gets compressed with every step and eventually loses its cushioning abilities. Another reason is that once the tread wears out your feet slip a lot more along the ground altering your running mechanics which can cause hip, knee and foot problems.
2) Warm Up
A common factor in people who come into the clinic injured after sport is that they didn’t perform an adequate warm up. Every routine should start with a warm up targeting the muscles and joints you aim to be using in your workout. These warm up exercises should be gentle and performed with little to no weight to increase flexibility and slowly load the tendons. You don’t want to surprise them with a sudden heavy load as this could lead to a muscle strain.
Focusing on strengthening muscles in isolation can cause imbalances to develop around the body. This can lead to a range of injuries such as muscle strains, tendonitis and tendon injuries. When an imbalance develops, some muscles will be working overtime and will become prone to overuse injuries such as tendonitis whilst other muscles are becoming used to doing very little and will be more easily strained or torn as they have become accustomed to carrying very little weight.
Hip strength and stability is a key area for injury prevention, particularly for runners and triathletes. Hip stability provides a crucial role in leg stability in many activities such as walking, running, stair climbing and squatting. The glutes (bum muscles) are the main muscle group required for hip stability and weaknesses in these muscles are a key contributor in many cases of hip, knee, ITB and back pain. It surprises me how many people come in to the clinic that cannot properly activate their bum muscles. Our physiotherapists can easily assess your hip strength and stability and provide you with customised exercises to address any weaknesses and not only prevent future injury, but improve your performance too.
Stretching should be performed at the end of every session to reduce the feeling of muscle tightness the next day. Stretching should focus on the areas you exercised that session but you should stretch particularly tight areas every day to slowly increase mobility.
Stretching allows you to move your joints through their full range of motion and reduces the risk of pulling or tearing muscles. It also allows you to perform exercises with the correct technique. For example you need flexible ankles to perform a squat correctly.
5) Correct technique
Even if you do all the above right you are still at risk of injuring yourself if you aren’t performing your exercises correctly and safely. This is particularly important for gym based training such as squats an deadlifts but applies to running and cycling too. To ensure you are performing an exercise correctly it is best to practice under supervision from someone who is experienced in the exercise. Here at Coast Allied Health, we can assess and correct your running technique and for all gym exercises.
Written by Jonathan McLennan.
Coast Allied Health physiotherapist.
Jonathan is a national level representative middle distance runner, as well as a qualified physiotherapist with degrees in Physiotherapy and Medical Science. Jonathan practices from the Vincentia and Culburra Beach clinics.