Overuse injuries are the most common of all running complaints

Overuse injuries are by far the most common type of presentation I encounter in runners presenting for physiotherapy.

When you run (or do any form of physical activity) you create micro-trauma to your tissue (bone, muscle and tendon) which is then replaced, regenerated and strengthened by the laying down of new cells such as collagen. Each individual has a certain rate at which they can lay down this new tissue. This process actually strengthens your tissue and improves its ability to withstand more load

Overuse occurs when the amount of loading has exceeded your ability to lay down this new tissue.

Here is a great picture expanding on this principle from Tom Goom’s Running Repairs course I attended 2 years ago now:

This picture on the left shows the different components that can make up your training load. It is important to note that these aren’t JUST running! They can also include other activities like work or going to the gym.

On the right side we have a list of ways we can increase your tissue load capacity. Plenty of options to explore there and a lot of stuff you can start looking at right now!

Training load is like a see-saw!

So looking at both sides of the see-saw – the main things I see increasing people’s risk of overuse injury are generally pretty simple errors:

  1. Increasing training load by too much too quickly e.g. increasing kilometres by more than 30% compared to the previous week or that moment of brilliance when you decide to start running up a whole heap of stairs this week.
  2. Non optimal structuring of your total exercise program (doing a massive run after training legs hard at the gym)
  3. Rapid change in running technique e.g. change to forefoot strike done in one fell swoop and getting a calf blowout
  4. Changing external factors too quickly e.g. significant change in footwear type without a transition period
  5. Not doing enough strength conditioning to increase tissue capacity

Training error is part of being human

These are errors we can all make and they are understandable. All part of just being excited about running!

So if you are a runner here are a couple of things for you to consider right now:

  1. Make sure you are doing adequate strength conditioning particularly for calf, glute, hamstring and hip flexors. Can you do 30 single leg calf raises? Can you do 30 single leg bridges? If not put in some work!
  2. Keep an eye on your kilometres and incline – try not to increase your km’s more than 10% per week
  3. Check how stable you are – can you balance easily on single leg? Can you hop side to side/forward and back with ease? Can you stand on a Dura disk for 30 seconds? If not, you may need to work on some balance and core stability
  4. If you’re trying to change your running style or footwear – don’t do it all at once! Do small doses of the new change and ramp it up gradually 10-20% more each week