Stretch, Stretch, Stretch! How to Prevent Injuries?

Running is great, in fact, once you catch the running bug, you’ll probably want to run all the time. This is perhaps conflicting to popular belief, but I think runners can vouch for me when I say it’s almost like an addiction. This makes it all the harder when you suddenly hit barriers that prevent you from doing the thing you love (especially when it could have been prevented). Now that might have been a bit dramatic, but these past few weeks I’ve been plagued with a few niggles which have made the start of the marathon season slightly more difficult than I anticipated. It started at the beginning of December after a very cold and hilly interval session, I began to feel a slight pain in the top of my foot. At first, I assumed that it was just my laces that had been tied too tight and it would probably subside. However, as you might have guessed, it didn’t … in fact it just seemed to get worse and any pressure that I put on that foot became rather painful. I had what is known as extensor tendonitis, which basically just means that the tendon in my foot had become inflamed. This was obviously rather inconvenient, how am I meant to get better at running if I can’t run? If you’re reading this and you’re a runner or do any type of sport you can probably relate to how annoying minor Injuries like this can be, especially since the only cure is *sigh* rest, which I must admit I ‘m not great at.

Luckily for me, I complied with my subscribed rest period, cross-training in the meantime and my foot seemed to heal! Yay, happy days, I was back in the game ready and laced up. But no, about 2 weeks later I instead started to feel pain elsewhere, the shin to be specific. A dull ache turned into more of a sharp pain and I again felt like I had hit another brick wall in my training plan. Yep the dreaded shin splints… what’s a girl got to do to catch a break! Well I think I might be able to answer my own question here, probably more stretching and conditioning. This didn’t mean to be a rant although it seems to have headed down that path, but what I really wanted to write about, is the importance of keeping on top of your mobility routine and strengthening exercises. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m extremely lazy when it comes to this, but this therefore means I absolutely only have myself to blame when I then get minor setbacks like these that could have been avoided.

Kent Championships circa 2012

I know I said in my last post that I wasn’t really doing new year’s resolutions, but I’ve decided that this definitely needs to become a main priority. I’m no stranger to stretching, having been a gymnast for around 9 years and then going on to do competitive cheerleading at university, it used to take up a lot of my time. However, after stopping these sports stretching suddenly didn’t seem that important, runners don’t really need to do the splits do, they? Although I no longer require the crazy flexibility that I used to, I have come to realise that my recent string of injuries is probably caused by the lack of proper recovery. Stretching improves your range of motion, which decreases the risk of muscle strains and overuse injuries e.g. tendonitis, it can also improve your stride length, speed and overall running efficiency, as well as preventing soreness and cramping after your sessions. So essentially, it’s a key part of the recovery process, as you may well know if you don’t stretch your more than likely to suffer from DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). Now unlike my gymnastics days this doesn’t need to take hours, 5 to 10 minutes is plenty. Making sure to focus on the main muscle groups you use for running, that being your quadriceps, hip flexors, hamstrings, and calf muscles.

Now on a more positive note my shins are feeling better this week so my plan is to go ahead with my long run this weekend of about 20km. It’s been a few weeks since I’ve done this distance, but fingers crossed all goes smoothly. Luckily, it is still pretty early in this training cycle so I’m hoping with added emphasis on injury prevention I can continue to follow my sessions getting up to those 42.2km!

Happy weekend everyone!

Anna xx

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