Four Tips to Stop That Niggle From Dashing Your Running Goals.

With the 2022 calendar filling up with marathons, half’s and 10k’s, we are seeing a rise in running injuries in the clinic. 

When starting any running program, one of our main priorities should be to reduce the risk of injury so we are able to achieve our running goals.  Unfortunately, research would suggest that complete ‘prevention’ of injury is not realistic or achievable. Sometimes things occur that are outside of our control, but there are several factors that are within our control and understanding these things can help us to stay injury free.

Read on for my top four recommendations to keep your running program on track:

1: Too much too soon

When selecting a running program, ensure that the weekly running volume at the start of your program is not grossly different to your ‘pre-program’ volume. For example, going from no running at all for months on end, suddenly to 20+km/week may put you at risk of an overuse injury.

We need time to allow our tissues to adapt to new loads. So consider taking a few weeks (or more if needed) to build up to this before starting the program, especially if you are a novice runner, or consider a different program altogether. Experienced runners may be able to take a few more risks, but graded exposure is still advisable, especially if you are an athlete that has taken some time off running.

2: Nip it in the bud. 

So, what if we do develop a niggle during or after a run? More often than not, if you give it a few days to settle down by either resting, cross training, or modifying your running program, the body takes care of it for you.

Many people like to ‘roll the dice’ with this one and train through little aches and pains with no modification. Sometimes we get away with it…but sometimes we don’t. You are much better off in the long run of you never let it become an injury in the first place. 

3: Should I see a physiotherapist?

If a niggle is not settling after a period of offloading and activity modification, you should seek the advice of a physiotherapist sooner rather than later. As a rule of thumb, we would not recommend leaving it untreated for more than two weeks. It is rarely a good idea to push through the pain and if symptoms are worsening, especially during the run, it is important to get this checked out.

Believe it or not, your physiotherapist is not necessarily going to tell you to stop running and give you ten crazy exercises to do instead. Sometimes it is just a case of combing through your running program with you and making some fine adjustments to get you back on track.

This may be in the form of adjusting running volume, intensity, training surface, footwear or considering gait alterations based on our assessment. At times we may add in some cross-training and targeted strength or mobility work along-side this, if needed. Remember that our goal is your goal: to get you back on track and over the finish line. So don’t leave it too long to book in, injuries are always much easier to treat in the early stages than left until they are something you can no longer run through.

4: Don’t overcook it

Respect the tapering period in the last week or so leading up to the race – It is there for a reason.  Many athletes will be tempted to squeeze in some extra miles in the final week before a race hoping that it will improve their performance.

Any benefits from the ‘extra-training’ done at this point will be marginal at best and are heavily outweighed by the risk of picking up an injury at the most inconvenient time! Instead, reflect on all of the hard work you have put in and give your body time to adapt and recover before race day.  

If you have any concerns about a current issue or just want some further advice on injury prevention, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team at Alaia for an initial assessment. We also offer specific running assessments at the clinic and would be happy to provide you with more advice on how to make your running technique more efficient.

We wish you the best of luck in all your upcoming races!

Sam Bellhouse – Registered Physiotherapist