10 Ways to Avoid Getting Injured this Winter.
Unless you are about to let yourself loose on an autumn marathon this year, or you are indeed still aching from one you have just completed, you are probably putting your thoughts to winter training. As the air starts to get its winter bite, the leaves fall from trees, green changes to a range of browns and oranges, so too should your training enter a new season. Most of us use the winter to embark upon a new regime of maniac mileage, full of optimism from the speedy summer, but now ready to get into to the serious stuff. Before you do, however, have a think about the points below, because extra mileage can so often lead extra hours on the physio's couch, nasty bills that accompany them and wasted weeks of inactivity when you could have been doing useful training.
Rather than jump straight in to a haphazard mileage bonanza, think carefully about what you want to achieve and how you are going to get there. Prevention of injury is far better than cure and adequate planning is the first step of injury prevention. Be sure that you know in advance when you are going to up the mileage and add an extra session. Sit down for half an hour with paper and pen and plot out the weeks ahead.
2. Progress Gradually.
We've all done it. Gradual increases in weekly mileage, or long run distance, over a series of weeks, then Bang! you've upped your long run from 8 to 15 miles in one go, or you've doubled your biggest mileage in one fit of madness. If you have done the above (i.e planning) this shouldn't happen, but if you are running with someone different one Sunday don't fall into the temptation of doing their long run just because the extra mileage sounds good fun!
3. Run at Lunchtime.
Difficult for most we know, but remember it gets dark by 4.30pm and while you struggle in darkness there is a greater risk of missing the kerb and turning your ankle or other similar accidents. If you run in the light it is easier to keep to grass, a key to reducing injury risk as opposed to banging out miles on unforgiving tarmac. If you do run at night, Be Bright, Be Seen - injuries involving motorists tend to be worse than a bout of shinsplints!
4. Keep an Eye on your Shoes.
Your shoes erode quicker when your mileage goes up and if the shoes are worn, they may not be offering you adequate support. Also be careful to check for uneven wear, this can be the first warning sign of impending doom!
5. Add a flexibility session to your weekly schedule.
Hopefully you stretch before and after your runs anyway, but a dedicated session to flexibility alone can help to reduce the risk of injury. As you hammer out the mileage your muscles will become more tight, so stretching may ease them out. As your muscles stretch more easily when they are warm, a relaxing stretch after a warm bath is something you might like to try.
6. Avoid trying to run fast when increasing your volume.
The months of flying in the summer are over. If you try sprinting at the same time as increasing your mileage, something may well give way. Of course you may need to do quality intervals, but they should not be as fast as the summer workouts and you should have a good long warm up beforehand.
7. Wear sensible Clothing.
A great range of fabrics on the market means that you should not struggle to find something comfortable to run in when it's cold. If you get cold and wet in the middle of a session, you stand a greater chance of tearing muscle fibres. Lycra tights are recommended as a lightweight comfortable way of keeping legs warm in both reps and long runs.
8. Remember to keep Hydrated.
Even on the coldest days you will be losing fluid, not just in sweat, but also water vapour when breathing. If you become dehydrated you will fatigue quickly and this is when you become more susceptible to injury. Your technique will deteriorate with tiredness leading to a variety of problems.
9. Try a Massage.
If you are building volume, or introducing quality work, massage will always help you to recover. This is the classic treatment where prevention is better than cure. The qualified masseur will be able detect potential injury sites and work on these specifically, before they lead to fully fledged problems.
10. Listen to your Body!
Regardless of what the schedule says, or however many miles you need to hit that target, it is important that you listen to your body and detect the warning signs. If you are particularly tired, it is not a crime to miss a day, or cut the run in half. It is better to take an easy day when needed, rather than lose a week or more because you have overdone it. Morning pulse rate is an excellent check if you log it and if you feel a niggle sort it out early, rather than let it develop into something more serious.