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  • Writer's pictureMary Brooking

Spring injury alert: What to look out for & how to protect yourself

Updated: Feb 18, 2023

Spring is just round the corner! There’s more daylight, it’s a bit warmer, bulbs are poking out and hopefully your activity levels are rising. Maybe you have an event in the diary that you’ve started training for or just feel the call to get outside and move more. Unfortunately this time of year often also heralds new niggles and injuries as runners start to increase their mileage.

Plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendon issues, shin splints, ITB syndrome, runners’ knee - the list of overuse injuries that can arise can seem daunting but having an awareness of common issues and their early warning signs plus a well rounded injury prevention protocol will put you in the best place to enjoy running all through 2023 and not only be on the start line but to cross the finish line of your event too.

So, starting from the feet up….

- Plantar fasciitis: pain on the inside of your heel, where the arch of your foot starts, firth thing in the morning or after rest, but wearing off quickly?

- Achilles tendon issues: stiffness in the calf and Achilles tendon, first thing in the morning which initially wears off quite quickly? Or a swollen Achilles and pain which affects activity?

- Shin splints: tight calf muscles and a dull ache/discomfort in the front of your lower leg?

- ITB syndrome or runner’s knee: pain over the outside of the knee or behind the kneecap when running or going downstairs which initially stops when you stop running but progresses to become a constant ache?

If you start experiencing any of these symptoms then don’t ignore it or let it progress; address it as soon as possible by seeking out a sports specialist physiotherapist or sports massage therapist to get treatment designed to keep you running

And how to best protect yourself from overuse injuries? My top tips are:

- Increase mileage gradually: Follow a training plan which changes running volume and intensity slowly to give your body time to adapt. Maximum increase of 10% in both the length of your long run and your overall mileage is a good rule of thumb.- --Strength & mobility training is hugely important: Weak core & glute muscles, restrictions in ankle mobility & strength and muscle imbalances around the hip & knee joints are common factors in so many running injuries. Pilates, HIIT, resistance weight training are all great sessions to include once or twice a week into your training programme

- Warm up before activity: Prepare your body for running by slowly raising your heart rate with a slow, easy jog. Dynamic stretches activate muscles and mobilise joints using movements specific to running.

- Fuel your body: Carbohydrates, proteins and fats are all essential for a diet to provide enough energy for training and promote muscular repair and recovery to remain injury free. This is not the time to be restricting calories.

- Recovery is part of training: Cool downs, easy/ recovery runs, foam rolling & stretching and good sleep habits can help muscular recovery. This means muscle fatigue is reduced, together with the injury risk from technique deteriorating through tiredness. Don’t under-estimate the extent to which a busy and stressful life, to which marathon training is being added, means there is a need for a significant focus on rest and recovery.

- Regular massage: Sports massage can improve muscle balance, joint flexibility and range of motion helping to develop a more balanced and less injury prone movement pattern. It reduces muscle tension, promotes recovery and can raise awareness of areas that need a stretching and foam rolling focus.

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