Edmonton Journal

Don’t let injury sideline your love for running

Be sensible — keep your weekly mileage in check and take time off

- JILL BARKER For Postmedia News

Get a few runners together and it won’t be long before the topic of injuries comes up. It’s suggested that almost 80 per cent of runners have experience­d an injury, though you’d be hard-pressed to find the elusive 20 per cent who haven’t.

With injury rates so high you may wonder why they keep at it, but the health benefits of running far outweigh the consequenc­es. Not to mention for runners, injuries aren’t a deal breaker, just part of their reality.

Most experts suggest that it’s a combinatio­n of anatomical, biomechani­cal and training factors that pave the way to an achy knee, sore foot, painful shins or a tender hamstring. In other words, how a runner’s built, how a runner runs and how a runner trains, determine their risk of injury.

Leg-length difference­s, arches that are too high or too low, ankles that are too weak or too stiff and a large Q-angle (the angle between the knee and hips with wider hips leading to a greater Q-angle) are examples of anatomical factors that contribute to injury.

Foot strike, posture and stride length are some of the biomechani­cs that can lead to runner’s aches and pains.

Distance, volume, frequency and pace are the training elements that round out the trio of factors that affect running workouts.

Yet despite the understand­ing that most running injuries are multifacto­rial, overuse is still widely quoted as the primary reason runners get hurt. There’s a general consensus that too much repetition is a runner’s worst enemy. The problem is, there’s a lack of agreement about what constitute­s moderate training versus over training.

Part of the problem is that the running community is so diverse, both in its population and training practices. Adding to that is a lack of consistenc­y when it comes to research design, which makes it difficult to build up a body of conclusive evidence.

The end result is that it’s hard to know whether age or gender matter and whether running downhill, running everyday or sprinting versus jogging is a prelude to taking a forced rest. There’s also conflictin­g evidence as to whether novice or veteran runners are more injury prone, though we’re pretty sure neither are immune.

That said, there are some things we do know.

There are about 20 different injuries common to runners, with the majority occurring in the lower extremity, in particular from the knee down. The knee itself is the body part that gives runners the most grief, with shin splints, plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendinitis not far behind.

As for the biggest predictor of injury, a 2014 study out of San Paulo, Brazil suggests that a previous injury within the last 12 months significan­tly increases the chance of a new injury or a recurrence of similar but more serious injury.

Most runners will agree with the study’s findings, as it’s common to go years without an injury only to be faced with a cascade of aches and pains after the first one hits. Rushing back into a regular running routine before the injury has completely healed is one reason reoccurren­ce is so high. The other reason is that most runners will make changes to their biomechani­cs, which can overload different muscles or tendons and expose them to greater stress.

Competitiv­e runners and runners who pile on the mileage are also more likely to halt their regular workouts due to persistent aches and pains. How many miles are too many? There’s no absolute threshold, but the literature suggests logging more than 64 km a week will result in increased risk.

As for running frequency, more than three times a week seems to result in more injuries. Meanwhile, running only one day a week can also cause the body to protest.

Encouragin­gly, age or gender doesn’t seem to be a strong predictor of injury. Nor do the style of shoes or the type of surface run on.

What does all this informatio­n tell the average runner who wants to avoid being sidelined with injury?

Be sensible. Keep your weekly mileage in check and take the occasional day or two off a week. And don’t forget to devote some of your training hours to something other than pounding the pavement. Try hitting the pool or a spin class instead. Most important of all, take the time to recover from an injury before lacing up your shoes and heading back out the door.

 ?? ANDREW VAUGHAN/ THE CANADIAN PRESS/ FILE ?? Dedicated runners don’t let weather deter them from pursuing their favourite obsession. Most runners, however, are prone to injury, but there are steps you can’t take to reduce your chance of getting sidelined.
ANDREW VAUGHAN/ THE CANADIAN PRESS/ FILE Dedicated runners don’t let weather deter them from pursuing their favourite obsession. Most runners, however, are prone to injury, but there are steps you can’t take to reduce your chance of getting sidelined.

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