5 Physio Tips Every Runner Should Know!!
Becoming a successful runner is easy… Do you run? Then you’re a success! However, understanding certain principles can enable any runner to continue to improve their performance, while keeping their injuries to a minimum. Here are five physio tips every runner should know:
- Get Professional Help
Running is an incredible sport, with lots of positive physical and mental benefits. However, it is also known for causing a high number of injuries. When an injury occurs, especially in running, understanding the specific cause can be essential to effective and timely rehab. Injuries can occur from overuse, weakness, poor mobility... the list goes on! Physiotherapy can be expensive, but it can stop you wasting time and prevent the injury from continually reoccurring.
Physiotherapists can not only diagnose, but teach you how to train smarter creating personalized training/rehab programs – this includes rest!
- Sleep is Essential
Runners are infamous for finding rest a bigger challenge than the running itself. However, rest can improve your performance and reduce your risk of injury. Rest allows your body to effectively recover from the large loads that training requires. Sleep is a free, and powerful tool that all athletes should utilize. Runners who do not get enough sleep will be impacted in a multi-faceted way; both physically and psychologically. Lack of sleep negatively affects our cognitive abilities such as decision making, attention, focus and emotional wellbeing (increased anxiety, depression, anger, and stress). Running is just as much a mental sport as it is physical, and if our mind is impaired, we simply cannot be our best (1,2).
Physical performance is also directly and indirectly impacted as well. Research has shown endurance athletes who sleep for less than seven hours per night are more likely to report injuries (3).
- Recover safely
Along a similar vein, recovery days (including active recovery days) should be a part of any runners training plan. Activities such as yoga and/or Pilates are common amongst many runners for recovery – but this should be done with care. Injuries during classes can occur when ranges are pushed too far, students go beyond their experience level or are unable to accommodate appropriately for a current injury. Given the high rate of injuries runners work through it is important to find a teacher who can adjust around your fatigue, personal biomechanics, and if needed injuries. Meet your teacher in person before, ask your physio for a recommendation, or find an online studio such as Made By Movement that provides sport physiotherapist-led yoga and Pilates for athletes (it even has physio education videos that are super helpful!)
- Consistency and motivation with the rehab
As with anything, running, learning, building strength or improving mobility – your rehab (or prehab) will take time and require consistency. Depending on your diagnosis your rehab could take as little as 3-4 weeks or as long as 52+ weeks. However, it is important to note this does not mean you won’t be able to run during your rehab (depending on your diagnosis). Yes, it may need to be modified but often you are able to keep running. Not to harp on about point 1, but this brings home the importance of seeing a qualified health professional who can diagnose, give you an estimate of rehab times, and modify your running to fit with your rehab.
Rehab will have ups and downs and sadly recovery is not a linear progression. By maintaining consistency, it will give your body the best chance at recovering well. We all know those athletes who do their physio until it feels better then stop and the pain eventually comes back. Listen to your physio, remain consistent and try not to get frustrated. You will end up in a much stronger, more mobile, better performing athlete if you can.
- Progression and Grading
All runners need to be mindful of their progression, but new runners especially fall into the trap of progressing too quickly. This can subsequently lead to getting injured, frustrated with a lack of quick progress, and feeling like a failure.
Grading and progression simply means building your runs up overtime by taking into consideration distance, speed, pace, and load. The speed that everyone can progress to the next step is different; graded overload is how the body adapts and becomes stronger. However, there becomes a point where the load is too much, and injury occurs – therefore grading is essential to allow us the space to reflect and recognize how our bodies are responding to each progression, hopefully without injury. Injuries in runners often come from a mistake with grading their progressions, by introducing in more load (distance, speed, pace) than their bodies can handle during a time period (4).
Following guidelines like these can enable you to continue running, without pain, and with confidence!
- João KADR, Jesus SN, Carmo C, Pinto P. The impact of sleep quality on the mental health of a non-clinical population. Sleep Med. 2018;46:69-73. doi:10.1016/j.sleep.2018.02.010
- Kahn-Greene ET, Killgore DB, Kamimori GH, Balkin TJ, Killgore WD. The effects of sleep deprivation on symptoms of psychopathology in healthy adults. Sleep Med. 2007;8(3):215-221. doi:10.1016/j.sleep.2006.08.007
- Johnston R, Cahalan R, Bonnett L, et al. General health complaints and sleep associated with new injury within an endurance sporting population: A prospective study. J Sci Med Sport. 2020;23(3):252-257. doi:10.1016/j.jsams.2019.10.013
- Load, Overload, and Recovery in the Athlete: Select Issues for the Team Physician-A Consensus Statement. Curr Sports Med Rep. 2019;18(4):141-148. doi:10.1249/JSR.0000000000000589
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