Last month I watched with awe as thousands of people from across the globe pounded the pavements of my fair city at the 2017 Dublin City Marathon. This is an event I particularly enjoy as I usually work at the pre marathon expo so I get to meet many of the participants and hear their stories and motivations first hand. Unfortunately however, most of my contact is with participants who have picked up an injury along the way and need last minute intervention to get through the race.
Now granted, a marathon is a particularly long and arduous run but often these injuries have been picked up during the shorter training runs and these are injuries that are in no way exclusive to long distance runs. In fact, you may be surprised to learn that the instance of injury amongst runners is incredibly high, with research showing as much as 50% of runners experiencing an injury on an annual basis.
While there are a number of factors that lead to injury the main culprit, in my experience, is that many runners just run, that is their release, that is their preferred exercise and thus that is the limit of their training. This is not good. If you run regularly you really must cross train to prevent injury.
Cross training involves blending a number of training methodologies to improve the overall strength, stability, cardiovascular fitness, speed and recovery ability of your body. In short, combining different types of exercise into your training programme will help reduce and even prevent the instance of injury.
So, what kind of exercises may be good to try? Well, below I have listed just some types of training you can introduce into your programme and the benefits of each:
This has to be the top of the list; strength training is essential if you plan to run with any sort of frequency. Not only will strength training help prevent injury occurrence but it will also lead to improved technique and speed so it really is worth consideration. Strength training will help correct any imbalances in muscle strength between your dominant side and weaker side. These imbalances can throw off your stride and thus lead to injury.
Another common complaint with runners is knee pain, which may be caused by lack of stability in the hips. Lower back pain can be rectified / prevented by strengthening the core and so on. A good place to start would be to include squats, dead-lifts, lunges and planks into your programme.
Another favourite complaint I hear from runners is tight muscles, which is a common yet avoidable cause of pain and injury.
Muscles work best when they are hydrated, supple and mobile. Stretching is hugely important before and after a run but going one step further, your workout should actually include a flexibility session. Good activities to help achieve this include regular yoga and foam rolling.
Varied Cardio Workouts
While obviously your runs are a good cardio workout you should also mix this up by including both low impact cardio exercise and high intensity interval training.
The low impact training will help aid recovery and will provide a joint friendly form of exercise – always a good option when you feel those little niggles but don’t want to miss a session!
Good activities include swimming, cycling, walking on an incline and training on specialist machines designed to reduce impact including the Zero Runner and Reflex deck treadmills.
High intensity interval training (HIIT) involves short bursts of intense activity followed by short recovery periods before repeating this process. Many runners may have used this method to build up to a speed with a run / walk / run / walk approach.
Adding body resistance and light strength exercises to this type of training provides an efficient way to tick a number of boxes! Circuit and tabata classes will provide a good fun and energetic way to include this into your programme.
So I urge you if you aren’t including any of the above into your training give it a go, a varied programme specific to your body’s needs will ultimately improve your technique, your body’s ability to recover and more than likely the enjoyment factor of your runs to!
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