Minimizing Risk of Running Injuries #1: Training Errors.

The main cause of running injuries is: Training errors (inadequate load management).

The human body is incredibly good at adapting to load! However, you have to make sure to progressively increase the capacity to sustain higher load. Indeed, if the load exceeds the body’s capacity to sustain that load, the likely result will be pain and/or injury.

One high-quality study highlighted the 3 most common ways that runners overload their capacity, leading to an injury:

  1. One or more recent changes in: running speed and/or distance and/or frequency of training
  2. Increased average weekly mileage by more than 30% compared to less than 10% during the training period
  3. Significant sudden increase in running distance the week before the injury

(Damsted, Glad, Nielsen, Sørensen, & Malisoux, 2018)

Here is a really good video explaining load v.s. capacity:

runners overload their capacity graph

Source: The Running Clinic.

So…how do we best prevent overload? 

Here are my 3 key pieces of advice:

1. Give your body enough time to adapt to training

    • Plan to start training for an event early enough to progress volume and intensity
    • Plan even more time to make up for missed training days due to life events that you can’t control
    • Increase your weekly mileage progressively to stay at a lower injury risk. For beginners, an increase of 10% is recommended. More experienced runners can increase their volume by 24% if they are building up towards a volume they already done in the past, but should definitely stay below the 30% threshold. (Damsted, Glad, Nielsen, Sørensen, & Malisoux, 2018)

2. Consider psychological load:

    • The body capacity can be decreased daily by fatigue, stress or any other psychological factors.
    • Adapt your training plan according to how you feel that day.
    • Example: a stressful day or you got less sleep or you are feeling more tired: you may need to decrease the intensity or duration of training

3. Listen to your body.

Avoid any pain going above 3/10 on a 0-10 pain scale, make sure discomfort subsides in 30 minutes after exercise and that there is no increase in discomfort or stiffness the morning/day after.

To read week #2 on Intrinsic Factors, click here. 

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Florence Charbonneau-Dufresne BSc, MPT, FCAMPT, CGIMS.

Physiotherapist, Running Specialist and Competitive Runner.