Whether you’re a first-time runner, frequent gym-goer or training for a marathon – injury is the number one reason individuals struggle to reach their workout goals. We spoke to Ashleigh Wienand, clinical director at Ultra Sports Clinic and physiotherapist to city professionals, music stars and professional sports teams, to discover the biggest mistakes people make when training for a race and the best ways to avoid the injuries those mistakes can cause.
Mistake 1: not following a programme
“You need to be following a good training programme, because they are designed to get you the best results and to limit injury. You can find them in magazines or online, although I’d recommend looking at a few before you decide, so that you use one that’s best suited for your lifestyle. Don’t be unrealistic with your plan either. If you’re running a marathon for the first time, for example, don’t choose one for finishers under three hours. Aim for one that is closer to four to five hours, because pushing yourself too far is the easier route to injury.
“Don’t forget to cross-train either. You can use weights, do some core work or try the rowing machine, but you want to be working out your whole body, not just your legs. Swimming is also great for when you are feeling tight and sore because it’s cardio but not weight-bearing. If you are already carrying an injury and can’t run, swimming is a brilliant way to still train while you recover.”
Mistake 2: not checking your shoes
“Lots of people out there are running in old and unsupported shoes and they don’t even realise how much that contributes to injuries. If you’ve been running in the same shoes for years, you aren’t acknowledging that your body has changed and you need to adapt to that. Go have a gait analysis, so that an expert can access your running style and find you a pair of appropriate trainers. My advice is to wear shorts and run to the appointment. You want to be feeling a little bit tired because your legs and ankles behave differently when you are fatigued and that’s when you need the most support from your shoes.
Mistake 3: wearing the wrong clothing
“You need to have well-fitting workout clothing, especially underwear, to avoid chafing and soreness. You might find that cutting the labels out of your t-shirt to stop rubbing helps too. What I will say is, don’t run in new workout clothing straight away. You should really be washing your kit before you first wear it, as the quick-dry fabrics absorb all the sweat and you can never get it out. It’s also important that you train in what you are going to wear on race day. You need to judge what the weather is going to do and practice in your outfit. Having an old jumper you are happy to unzip and leave at the start will stop you getting cold as you wait in the start pens too.”
Mistake 4: not stretching
“It’s so simple, but one of the most important things to do when exercising is to stretch. So many people tend to rush off to exercise at lunchtime or after work, jumping up to go running having been sat all day with terrible posture. You need to get yourself into a good routine, so that you warm-up before exercise and stretch afterwards, giving your body a chance to change and adapt. I always say that it’s like chewing bubble gum. When you chew gum, you can always stretch it further by the end. It’s the same thing with muscles. Research has also shown that if you stretch for ten minutes everyday as part of a routine, you get far better results than if you stretch for thirty minutes three times a week.”
Mistake 5: not changing up your route
“If you’re running on the same terrain in the same direction, for example on the pavement round and round a park, you are more likely to develop an injury than if you are changing your direction of travel, because the pressure is consistently put on one side of your body. Also, try to avoid getting stuck behind people as you run, which means you have to weave around them. Instead, look ahead and pick a line, so you don’t have to run up to someone and step sideways to get in front of them. Minimising sideways movements is much kinder on the body and can stop you injuring yourself during a run.”
Mistake 6: always running on a treadmill
“Running on a treadmill at a zero incline can cause injuries like back pain and ‘runner’s knee’, because that setting actually means you are running slightly downhill (1.0 is flat) and downhill running requires more strength and control. A treadmill also pulls your foot back, so you aren’t actually running as hard as you think you are. I’m not staying treadmill running is a bad thing but if you’re doing most of your training in a gym, I’d suggest getting outside to run on the roads at least once a week.”
Mistake 7: ignoring an injury
“People believe they have to be properly injured to see a physiotherapist but that isn’t true. The tendency to say, ‘it’s just a niggle, I don’t need to see someone’, actually means people further injure themselves and everything takes longer to heal.
“If you’re running and something starts to hurt, take very careful note about where exactly that pain is and when it comes on. A sore muscle is when you go to the gym and the next day your legs feel stiff and tight and that’s fine. It’s also fine if that stiffness takes a day or so to go away. But, if it persists for more than 72 hours and it hurts every single time you run, don’t just google it, go to see a physio as soon as possible. Ultra Sports Clinic does a free 15-minute body review that can be booked online. You can come in with a niggle or a question and an experienced physio will assess you and give you some really good advice.”
Mistake 8: not getting a sports massage
“I highly advocate getting a deep tissue massage during your training, as I find that patients who do regular body maintenance – for example, getting a tissue massage once a month – tend to not get injured as often. That’s because the treatment is picking up on things that are tight or out of alignment in their bodies. I wouldn’t get one straight after a big race though, as it can actually make small muscle tears even worse. Wait until your body stiffness has gone first, before treating yourself.”
Mistake 9: foam rolling too little or too much
“Foam rolling is amazing for treating muscle tightness, but you need to be careful as using them can inflame some injuries. Don’t roll over anything that makes you exhale with pain and you also shouldn’t be rolling everyday. Once or twice a week is enough. Find a roller that has a bit of padding and use your hands to support your body weight so it’s not too aggressive. Or, use a bouncy ball against a wall. It has a smaller surface area so you have to do it more but you can get really good results without as high a risk of inflammation.”
Mistake 10: not planning for race day
“When training for your race, you need to feed your body well, hydrate it often and start thinking about your race day early on. Start practicing how to fuel yourself and what and when you are going to eat. The night before, I’d recommend having some chicken or fish with salad and some potato, as you want something light in order to wake up feeling fresh rather than heavy or lethargic. You shouldn’t be carbo-loading anymore.
“On the day, make sure you’ve organised where your friends and family are going to be along the route so you don’t miss them. A lot of people start off too fast and run out of steam towards the end of a race, so be strict with yourself at the start by sticking with a pacer or using a sports-watch to time yourself, so that you have something left in the tank for the end.
“Lastly, don’t forget to write your name on your t-shirt so the rest of the crowd can support you as you run by. And, most of all, enjoy the race. That’s what makes all your training worthwhile.”
From: Harper’s BAZAAR UK