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How to minimise running injuries after a winter lay-off

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This is more like it. Stuff like this needs to be taught as part of PE in school.

It's been going on for a few years now, but call it the Core revolution.

TMSM is a great publication

Best Advice: Start small and set sensible goals

Even the very best athletes know that overtraining poses a serious injury risk. This is particularly true when coming off a period of rest or inactivity. Even if you usually train at a high standard, a few weeks on the couch or in front of a desk can have a huge impact on muscle length and activity. As a rule, if you’ve been off running for anything more than a few weeks, I’d recommend starting at no more than half your normal training distance and volume. So if you typically run around 10 kilometres three times per week, start at five kilometres for your first run. You can then build this back up by no greater than 10 per cent each run until you return to your previous training volume. Sticking to a three-times weekly training schedule, this would have you back at your normal distance in about three weeks.

Also, consider reducing your intensity until you’re back at your normal training volume. Most competing athletes will incorporate some sort of speed work or race-pace efforts into their training runs to prepare their bodies for race day, but your initial training block is not the time to do this. As a general guideline, if you can return to your previous training volume in the same time that you’ve taken off (i.e. within one month after taking one month off), you can consider your initial training block a success.

The 10% rule is very realistic and was also mentioned to me by an elite sports Doctor. The other parts of this article that resonate is the focus on back and hip flexibility, this is the key to longevity and increased performance. No way around it:

• Reduce tightness in the hip flexors and hamstrings: we’ve already mentioned tight psoas and quads, and this is a classic problem that we see clinically in athletes who spend much of their daytime sitting at work. The psoas and hamstring are placed in a shortened position, reducing the range of motion at the hip and creating tightness in the hamstrings. Remedy this with regular stretching of the hamstrings with hip extension exercises and lumbar mobility exercises like back rolls. A neuro-dynamic stretch can also be effective here, just remember to be careful if you’ve been experiencing back pain (see In-Site video).

• Improve your trunk and lumbo-pelvic stability – another problem often associated with prolonged periods of inactivity. Sitting disengages the trunk and pelvic stabilisers, which can gradually weaken with non-use. This can contribute to poor form and increased fatigue when running, further stressing other muscles and ligaments around the hip, pelvis and lower back. One of the single best exercises to improve lumbo-pelvic stability is the single leg squat. This forces our stabilising muscles to be used in a position that closely replicates the stance phase of running. If a single leg squat is too difficult, try using a step or bench under your back foot to assist with your form initially.

• Stiff spine – a stiff spine can be equally as detrimental as an unstable one. Limited range of motion in the spine places increased requirements on the other segments of the biomechanical chain, including the hip and pelvis. Segmental spine stiffness can occur for a variety of reasons, including a sedentary occupation, chronic back pain or injury, and being overweight. Physiotherapy treatment is often used to improve spinal mobility, and there are also many exercises and stretches than can be used to reduce spine stiffness. To get started, try lying on your back and rolling your legs side to side on a fit ball, or pulling one knee at a time slowly in to your chest.

• Get the calf muscles working correctly – too many runners don’t make full use of their most important propulsion mechanism – the foot-calf-ankle complex. To ensure you are getting the most out of your calves, try performing calf raises while holding a ball between your heels. This will encourage you to transfer your weight toward your big toe as you reach the top of the exercise. This will assist in activating both heads of the gastrocs, and help make use of the elastic energy stored in the medial arch of the foot.

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