Ramping up your running? Three ways to stay injury-free
LOS ANGELES, Sept 23 — If you’re new to running or hoping to increase speed or distance, whether or not you stick to your program is usually dependent on if you can keep going without injury or pain. While it’s essential to talk to your physician about injuries, a running expert offers some tried-and-true advice to help keep you in the clear: go slow, and here’s why.
Writer and coach Matt Fitzgerald writes this week in Competitor.com that before increasing speed and distance, the body needs time to adapt to the extra physical stress you’re placing on it.
He cites a 2002 study that presents the premise “that body tissues adapt in a predictable way in response to changes in the relative level of physical stress they are exposed to.” That means the tissues break down initially when you add extra stress, such as extra laps around the track, but then modify their structure and function to be more tolerant to the stress, he writes.
Fitzgerald also cites a rat study that found when the animals were exposed to a running program, “finger-like branches of new tissue grew in the attachment between the tendons and muscles of their legs, strengthening these important junctions.” But if the stress is increased too quickly, the tissues never bounced back after the initial breakdown — hence, running injuries occurred. Interestingly, running not only causes overuse injuries, Fitzgerald writes, it also protect your body against them, as long you take it slow.
If you’re hoping to run longer or faster without getting injured, he recommends these three guidelines:
1. Slowly increase the physical stress but give your tissues time to repair and adapt before adding more stress.
2. Never ignore pain. If you start to hurt, reduce your running just enough to make the pain go away or stop running for a few days to give your body a chance to repair. Of course, persistent or intense pain requires a trip to the doctor.
3. Be consistent. “Research suggests that injuries are more likely to occur during periods of increasing running mileage than they are during periods of steady mileage, even if that steady mileage level is high,” he writes. — AFP/Relaxnews