Getting to the start-line injury free

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As the training intensifies for the Vhi Women’s Mini Marathon, or indeed any event you have set your sights on, physiotherapist Julianne Ryan provides some essential tips that will help you reach the start line injury-free.

The Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists (ISCP) sponsors the Vhi Women’s Mini Marathon. On race day, why not visit the ISCP cool-down area and quick-assessment centre at the ISCP marquee near the finish line?

Chartered physiotherapists will be on hand to do post-race stretching, foam rolling and a myofascial release class.

However, before the race, there are some injury prevention tips to make sure you get to the start line injury-free!

A simple method in thinking about injury prevention is the FITT principle.

FREQUENCY: How often are you training/running?
INTENSITY: How hard are your training sessions?
TIME: How long are you running for?
TYPE: The activity you are doing, ie. running/other cardio and strengthening.

Frequency: Building up to a high frequency is important if you have been inactive for a long period of time. Commence your Mini Marathon training in an interval style; eg. varying between running and walking, two to three times a week. A safe way of increasing this frequency (and preventing injuries) is to add an extra training day every two weeks.

Intensity: The rate of preserved exertion (RPE) scale is an effective and reliable measure of gauging the intensity of your exercise. These scales are easily accessed on the internet and rate exercise from 1-10. Other methods to measure your intensity include using your target heart rate (HR). During more cardiovascular activities, such as running, you should look at gradually increasing your RPE and exercise in a safe HR zone.

Time: A safe way to build up your running load is doing intervals 2:1 of jog/walk. From there you can increase the time of exercise by 10 per cent. This is an effective way to increase training/running load as it enables your body to adapt to the changes in exercise and helps prevent injuries. If you would prefer a ‘ready-made’ programme, there are plenty of applications that enable you to build your running load from 0-10km, your Mini Marathon distance.

Type: The main focus in training is building up your running load to 10km. However, it is also important to do a mix of cardio and strengthening exercises. Also, it may be important to vary your type of cardio exercise if you notice your joints are getting sore. For example, doing some swimming, cycling or rowing training that you are still hitting your RPE or target HR.

Remember, never increase your intensity and duration of your training at the same time. Either make the run a little more difficult by increasing your speed or route of the run, or increase training time. Keep a training diary of your exercise distance, RPE and time. This will help you monitor your training progressions.

Strength exercises to combat injuries

When you initially start running and building up your 10km Women’s Mini Marathon distance, it is quite common to develop lower back, knee or Achilles pain. These injuries can be easily prevented by doing strengthening exercises as part of your training programme. Key muscle groups to target are your glutes, hamstrings and calf muscles.

Pelvic floor

From the impact of running, women’s pelvic floor muscles can get weak and may result in some incontinence issues. This is especially true for those who may have given birth recently or those who may have had a weak pelvic floor to start with. This muscle needs specific strengthening exercise and these are very effective at stopping any incontinence when you are out training.

Remember: Do the simple things well to stay injury free:

As part of your training complete a good 10-minute warm up, this will get you into a regular habit of safely building up your HR and warming up your muscles/joints in preparation for exercise. Warm ups should be gradual increase and may include exercises such as: stride outs, high-knee lifts, heel kicks and trunk twisting and strengthening exercises.

Just as important as a good warm up is your cool down. During your cool down, you want to make the exercises easier and gradually lower your HR. Complete your cool down with some static stretches after running to minimise muscle soreness and joint stiffness. This helps to prepare your body for your next running session.
Never exercise or train if you are ill or injured. Your body is already at risk and you can only risk picking up an injury or making it worse. If you have missed your training days, do not attempt to catch-up on lost time. This can cause further injury and result in a longer period away from running. If you are struggling with a persistant niggle or injury, consult your chartered physiotherapist for advice or a consult.

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