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A Physio's Guide to Run Away From Injuries

By Julian James

As a physiotherapist, I often only ever encounter runners when I'm either being passed by them on my morning or lunchtime jog. Or sitting across from them in the clinic because something is stopping them from running. Whether it's because races are coming up, milestones are trying to be achieved, or starting a new year with a new (or revived) passion for running, there are many different factors which might lead to a running related injury.


In my experience, it's not uncommon for runners to prefer the open road to the confines of a gym. However, working with runners, I've witnessed the impact a well designed strength program can have on a running performance and injury prevention or rehabilitation. Today, we're going to discuss some topics that always pop up in discussion with runners..


Run Further to Run Further?


Many Runners may have beliefs that focusing solely on running is the key to improvement. Unfortunately, it's not quite that simple. 

  • Running without a plan and simply running further in hopes that you can run further and further each run can increase the risk of injury. There are many different ways that we can address this issue, which is different for everyone, but strength training and monitoring running load are what I believe should be a major focus to stay on the road and out of the clinic. 


Why Are Programs Important?

  • Running places significant strain on certain muscle groups in the legs, major changes in running loads (distance, pace, or elevation) can cause the muscle to work harder than what they’re capable of, commonly leading to overuse injuries. Incorporating strength training and planning your runs helps to counteract this by supporting the heavily used muscle groups, and reducing the risk of injuries like shin splints, tendinopathies, stress fractures and other overuse injuries.


  • Strength training doesn't mean bulking up and lifting every plate in the gym. By focusing on exercises which strengthen the muscle groups which are heavily relied on when running, we can aim to reduce the risk of injuries mentioned before and allow the muscle to increase their capacity and cope with higher loads (running faster, further, harder trails).


So What Should I Do?

  • There is no 1 size fits all, which is where a second pair of eyes comes in handy. Whether you're running your first park run or have lost count how many finisher medals you have from previous marathons, I understand that many runners might be hesitant to add a strength routine to their already packed schedules. By having an assessment, we can understand the level of training that is being done, the goals of where we want to get to, and the steps to get from A to B. These steps are highly personalised tailored to the specific needs of each runner, ensuring maximum benefits in order to reach the individual's goals. 


Running is fantastic. For most people it is their comfort zone, their happy place. Putting headphones on and forgetting about everything else for however long the run is, or a place to catch up with friends who enjoy running as much as you do. However, incorporating strength training is not about taking away from the joy of running; it's about enhancing that experience. Embracing change with an open mind ensures that you’re able to stay in your happy place and out of the clinic which leads to an overall more enjoyable running journey.

As a physio, I encourage runners to view strength training not as a chore but as a valuable investment in their long-term running success. By embracing a well-balanced approach that includes both running plans and targeted strength programs that next race or PB is waiting to be ticked off. Hopefully I have helped some people realise that to run further, you can’t always just run further. 


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