Health

Training for a half marathon? The secret to avoiding injury and nailing it!

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Over half of those training for a half marathon or marathon get injured every year. There is some very common lower limb running injuries that you can reduce your risk of, while increasing performance. You just need to know what is a myth (hint: don’t waste your time stretching) and what DOES lead to injury… and avoid that!

In this post, we “run” you through what does and doesn’t increase the risk of injury and then what you can do to reduce those risk factors and in the process, optimizing training and performance.(8)

The five most common injuries in long distance runners are:

  1. Patellofemoral Syndrome
  2. Achilles Tendinopathy
  3. Iliotibial Band Syndrome
  4. Plantar Fasciitis
  5. Tibial Stress Syndrome (a version of shin splints) (1)

The thing about these 5 most common injuries runners get when training for a half marathon is that they are all gradual onset injuries and they all can occur through training error.

You might think that that is a load of bull, and I totally understand. It’s actually been shown in research that the majority of runners are way off when asked what they think causes injury (2).

Here’s what the majority of runners think causes injury:

What runners think cause injury, right or wrong
  1. Not stretching – this was the most popular reason runners thought led to injury
  2. Excessive running
  3. Shoe type
  4. Foot type (over/under pronated)

Not many of those reasons are backed by the studies that have looked at it. Stretching has been shown to have no protective effect and even though it can benefit recovery, does not help prevent injury(3).

Excessive training when training for a half marathon is spot on though. Runners build up too fast or don’t have enough recovery to allow adaptation, overload certainly occurs, this is true.

Selecting shoes based on foot type has not been shown to be protective or beneficial either. There is no evidence that choosing shoes based on your arch height etc help reduce the risk of injury. There have been quite a few studies looking into this with thousands of participants – don’t get caught up in all the marketing you see! (4,5,6,7)

So, what can you do to legitimately reduce your risk of injury when training for a half marathon?

Here are your 3 BIG things to give yourself the BEST chance in staying injury free and performing well:

  1. Warm-up: This is not static stretching’s where you stand around stretching’s a few muscles. Warming up should increase body temperature and prepare your body. Think of it as a dynamic warm-up – this has been shown by high-level evidence to decrease injury rate (8).
  2. Avoid spikes in training load: Follow a set plan where weekly mileage goals are set out as well as adequate rest. The gradual build-up, following the 10% rule as well as factoring in rest days in order to give your body time to adapt is key in preventing overload injuries.
  3. Have variation: In distance, speed, footwear, and terrain. This means you load your tissues differently, avoiding repetition and ensuring you build resilience.

Takeaways:

  • The more consistently you can train, the better you will perform. The less pain and injury you have, the more consistently you can train.
  • Rest is not a loss of training. Rest is when your body adapts to your training!

You might also enjoy: Running Myths Busted