Injury – the runner’s curse

A sport for some, but a passion for the most, running has come of age as one of the most favorite sporting activities.

However, even if you see yourself as the all-cautious athlete, taking every possible preventive and curative measures to keep up your running spree, the related sports injuries just seem to catch up.

Painful and causing extreme discomfort, these runners’ problems are a highly common occurrence, affecting one in every three of those undertaking this challenging sport.

Statistical Evidence

As per research figures, high school athletes alone experience approximately two million injuries, leading to almost 500,000 visits to health care providers and nearly 30,000 hospitalizations each year.[1]

Whether it is the dreaded Plantar Fasciitis or the irking Ingrowing Toenail, understanding what causes these runner’s woes is crucial to their treatment.

Ease into your run: don’t try to run before you can walk!

That’s a common phrase in the runners’ jargon and explains exactly what the desirable regimen should be for a running exercise. Tune in to your system and develop a pace that your body responds the best to.  A little attention right at the start can save you from a series of painful conditions including the likes of bunion, hallux rigidus and calcaneal bursa.

Experts advise that for best results, you need to alternate between two minutes of brisk walking with one or two minutes of jogging. For the first go, take it only for 10-20 minutes and then build it up over a period of weeks. You can eventually increase the total time and proportion of running, across weeks and months.

The hamstrings and calf muscle are the special high-tension areas that react poorly to a lack of adequate warm-up, leading to disorders such as in the Achilles tendon. Wall push-ups, hamstring stretches or straight leg-lifts, include them all.

Stay hydrated

An estimated 3-4 pounds of water per hour is lost when running on a warm day. By this measure, a two-hour running schedule will cause a 150-pound runner to lose 6-8 pounds. Put in laymen terms, this implies a 4-5% loss in body-weight and 10-15% fall in performance.

Dehydration severely tightens the muscle, leading to a cramp and results in conditions such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Exercise-related dehydration reduces endurance, increases body temperature and heart rate. The condition also takes a toll on the psychological levels of the runner as it makes the regular run seem much harder than usual.

It is worth mentioning here that each of the damaging effects of dehydration get even more aggravated in hot weather. The amount you sweat is directly related to how warm the weather is, which in turn leads to a decrease in the blood volume. Hence, a lesser amount of blood returns to your heart, making it pump less blood per contraction.

Consequently, in order to pump the same amount of blood, the heart rate must increase which means that the runner is not able to maintain an equally fast pace.

For more information on hydration in exercise, click here.

Watch your limits!

Experts refer to running as a balance of work and recovery. Perfection in performance is achieved only when the balance is perfect. Over-training occurs when the balance shifts too much towards work and the overall performance of the athlete declines.

Though fatigue is considered to be a normal part of effective training, it can often be a symptom of over-training and hence requires due attention. In fact, fatigue is one of the first signs of over-training if your performance starts dropping along with.

As stated by Tim Noakes in The Law of Running, the level of performance during time trials is a good indication. The runners who normally ignore these signs further go on to develop ‘plods’. Most common symptoms of the condition include sore muscles, heavy legs, sluggishness and overall sense of malaise.

Some of the other conditions associated with over-training include diarrhea, sleep disorders, stress, weight loss, sore feet and lower leg muscles and pain at old injury sites.  Chondromalacia, iliotibial (IT) band syndrome and ‘shin splints’.

For more information on injuries and stretches see the injury advice or stretches pages of this website

Experts Speak!

Stay away from the dreadful series of too much, too soon, too fast, too hard and not to forget too-little rest. Experts suggest that mileage should be increased at a rate of no higher than 10 percent a week. Maintain a running diary if you have to.

Replace your running shoes often and keep a watchful eye over your diet. Include a minimum of 4 to 8 ounces of water or sports drink, every 15 to 20 minutes during the run. Wear light-colored micro-fiber clothing and use UVA/UVB sunglasses.

As a runner or a marathoner, you ought to keep your body sufficiently hydrated and maintain the intake of essential nutrients. Though nothing compares with water for pure hydration, you can also supplement your intake with carbohydrate replacement drinks.

Most important of all, respect your body. Pay heed to the warning signals your system emanates. Do not ignore even the slightest signs of pain, for pain is a way for your body to inform you of an impending danger. Watch out for the symptoms of painful conditions like the black toenail, march/stress fracture and mid-foot pain.

[1] Powell, J.W., and K.D. Barber-Foss. Injury patterns in selected high school sports: A review of the 1995-1997 seasons. Journal of Athletic Training 34: 277-284, 1999.