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Avoiding marathon running injuries
Blog | April 20, 2017
By Dr Courtney Kipps

Simple methods to incorporate into your marathon training to help keep you running comfortably and to reduce your risk of injury.

Keep your training varied
As with most things in life moderation is key. Keep a healthy balance in your training and avoid excessive training in one area only I.e: avoid excessive hills, stairs, cambers, or track work, all of which can place unduly heavy loads on individual structures like the ITB.

Run in shoes that are comfortable
This may sound obvious, but do not buy a pair of running shoes which are not comfortable when you’re actually wearing them. By all means have your feet analysed and take advice about the type of shoes that may be more suitable to your running style, but whatever you do choose a pair which is comfortable to run in. If you wear a comfortable running shoe you are at no greater risk of injury and, what’s more, you’ll enjoy your running. You can’t say the same about a pair which doesn’t fit you properly or is uncomfortable to wear.

No need to overdo the stretching before training
Despite what you were taught in PE lessons at school, stretching before running does not prevent injuries. Increasing your range of movements by stretching to the extremes is unlikely to provide protection against overuse injuries which in the main occur within a normal range of movements. Surprisingly, stretching before exercise can even increase your risk of injury by separating the muscle fibre links vital to effective muscle contraction. Stretching may leave you with a greater range but it may also be a weaker one. Dynamic stretches have also been known to cause acute muscle injury by the sudden stretch in an unprepared muscle. Warm-up exercises, on the other hand, can effectively prime the vital muscles for action and therefore can be more effective.

Finally, get your injuries sorted out properly
You should address all injuries, even minor ones, before you carry on running. It’s difficult to tease out the precise mechanisms which makes a history of injury such an important risk factor, but whether it’s that the athlete continued running through an injury, that the injury was not adequately treated before the athlete returned to running, or that scar tissue is inherently weaker than normal muscle or ligament, the fact remains this is the most reliable predictor of future injury. It simply does not pay to run through an injury. Most minor injuries will settle with a few days rest but those that persist, those where the pain is increasing, or those which are associated with swelling, may require more formal assessment by a sports-minded health professional. Occasionally you will need a scan, however the key point is that an accurate diagnosis will allow a more thorough and tailored rehab program to allow you to return to running pain-free.

In summary
Sticking to a gradually progressive and suitably varied training program; running in comfortable shoes; and addressing any injuries by obtaining an accurate diagnosis and working through a thorough, exercise-based, active rehab program before a gradual return to training are all key to reducing your chances of future injuries.
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