Nobody feels 100 per cent all year round and there will be the odd occasion when you question whether it is a good idea to go out and run or not. Perhaps you have incurred an injury, are battling with a nasty cold or simply feel under the weather.
Common running injuries
The key to dealing with injuries is really prevention – that is, taking the appropriate action to avoid getting injured in the first place. This means listening closely to your body and seeking professional advice as soon as anything feels tight or sore beyond normal levels. Ignoring these niggles is likely to lead to them getting worse. This does not mean you have to stop running, but it is important to seek advice so that you can counteract any problems straight away.
Having your legs massaged by a qualified sports therapist or masseur is a wonderful treat for tired runners. It is relaxing, flushes out the muscles, promotes circulation and can help ward off potential injury. Go on, try it!
High-heeled shoes put pressure on the ball of the foot and can cause pain in the metatarsals and nerves at the front of the foot. They also shorten the Achilles tendon by tightening the calf, which can lead to a typical overuse injury such as chronic Achilles tendinitis or a heel spur. Advice: Warm up well, with plenty of stretching after running, holding each stretch for 20-30 seconds. Try facing a wall with your hands against it and leaning forwards with a straight body, keeping both heels on the ground until you feel your calf muscles and Achilles tendon stretch. Standing with the ball of the foot on a solid step and allowing the heel to drop is also useful. Ease the stretch further every ten seconds if you can.
Foot and toe deformities
If a woman has a flat foot or pronates excessively, or has weak or unstable ankle ligaments, she has a greater chance of developing foot and toe problems such as bunions. The problem is often compounded by shoes designed primarily for the male foot (the female forefoot is wider and the hind foot narrower).
Advice: Wear women’s running shoes designed for motion control and stability. If necessary, see a sports doctor to get a prescription orthotic to control the excessive pronation. Ankle-strengthening exercises and off-road running over uneven surfaces will strengthen ligaments and stabilize the ankle.
This curvature of the spine is most prevalent in female adolescents. In runners, it can contribute to lower back and hip pain. It can also cause a pelvic tilt, where one limb acts longer’ than the other. This almost always develops into an overuse injury to the ‘shorter’ limb.
Advice: See a podiatrist who can equalize limb length either through a prescription orthotic or a heel lift. This treatment will reduce the potential for overuse injuries.
Listen to your body. The more you run, the more proficient you will become at interpreting your sensations. If you feel sudden sharp pains in your chest, stop immediately and book an appointment with your doctor. Refer to a qualified sports physiotherapist if you have sudden, painful twinges or spasms in your muscles that don’t go away with a few minutes’ walking, or the onset of persistent joint pain.
These result from biomechanical stress on a weakened bone. If you are a heavier runner, have very poor technique or do long distances, you are more at risk. The prevalence of such an injury increases dramatically as weekly distances exceed 32 km (20 miles). A decrease in bone-mineral density owing to osteoporosis or poor nutrition through eating disorders can contribute. Advice: Make sure you have the right shoes for your weight, distance and running style. Demineralization of the bone requires medical attention, a proper diet and psychological help if the cause is an eating disorder. Complete rest from running is necessary to allow for complete healing.
There is no reason not to run when you are menstruating. By balancing some of the hormonal fluctuations, running can be great at reducing the symptoms associated with premenstrual tension (PMT), such as breast tenderness, bloating and general fatigue. If you know what to expect, it will be easier to continue with your normal running schedule. It may help to keep a note in your training diary about how you feel each day. You may notice a pattern of fatigue or of feeling more energized on specific days associated with your monthly cycle.