How to avoid your next running injury

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Whether as an exercise to get fit or to exorcise your demons, running is a very popular and accessible sport. What better way to talk yourself out of sending a dog dirt sandwich first-class delivery to an annoying co-worker, than to sweat out your frustrations with a lap of the tan? When the chaos of modern life has swallowed up your existence, who’s always waiting for you by the front door promising a small slice of ‘me-time’? Good ol’ Mr (or Ms.) Running Shoes.

For getting fit or losing weight you’d be hard pressed to find an activity as time-efficient as running. This makes it all the more troubling to see statistics that up to 80% of runners will get injured over a 12 month period. How demoralising to decide to grab the bull by the horns and commit to losing weight – and then blow out a calf. The thing that’s most frustrating for me is that most of these injuries are totally preventable with the right education.

Why, cruel world? WHY?

So, why do so many runners get injured? A big contributing factor is that we are never really taught how to run, or at least I wasn’t. Australia might adopt the same approach it does to swimming and give Olympic grade coaching from the age of 18 months, but back in England our after school running club consisted of being told to run around the field until it got dark… which, in England, in December, was about 45 seconds.

I don’t recall any coaching on technique or discussions about the importance of strength, just being told to run as fast as possible. Don’t get me wrong, that is good advice just before a county level 800m event, but not so great when it feels like someone’s stabbing an ice pick into your knee cap. (Come to think of it, if by “run as fast as possible” he meant “adopt a faster cadence”, that’s actually pretty good advice for someone with knee pain (SPOILER ALERT). My secondary school PE teacher was an innovator!)

Born to limp

Now, I don’t want to upset any running “purists” out there (those who have read “Born to Run” and naturally assume on completion of the book you have a PhD in running biomechanics) by saying there is only ONE way to run well. We are all different and have varying backgrounds of activity as our bodies developed.

But, if between the hours of 9-5 you are about as active as the Socceroos in the World Cup knockout stages, then it's quite likely certain inflexibilities or movement patterns have developed that don’t necessarily facilitate an efficient running style, and therefore put you at risk of developing a running injury.

If you’ve had a running injury in the past, you are more likely to get a running injury in the future – not exactly groundbreaking news, particularly if you managed your first injury by simply throwing your running shoes over the fence and locking in a Netflix subscription.

It’s a miracle!

But before you click off this page thinking, ‘yes this fella might be amusing but boy is he depressing’, there is light at the end of the tunnel! The ever-growing popularity of running and the heart-breaking statistics of injury occurrence mean that it is also heavily researched.  

So, if you’ve ever suffered with Plantar Fasciitis, Achilles Tendinopathy, Shin Splints, Calf Pain, Anterior Knee Pain, “Runner’s Knee”, Insertional Hamstrings Tendinopathy or Low Back Pain when you run, certain characteristics of how you run have been identified as contributing to the development and the progression of your pain. This also means tactics and technique cues have been developed (as well as specific strength and flexibility exercises) that help alter your running biomechanics to reduce and resolve your pain.

Can I get a HALLELUJAH!

Do I need a running assessment?

I’ll be following this blog post with information about the most common technique “errors” and how they might contribute to some of these injuries and, most importantly, what you can do to address them. So, if what I’m describing is ringing any painful bells, then a running assessment may very well be for you!


Author: Coach Dave