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An Osteopaths Guide to Preventing Running Injuries – Part 3

2 June 2016 No Comment

There has been a lot of research over the years on the best way to warm up. Athletes want to know the right way to do it so that they can do their best performance when it counts. But it’s equally important to be able to reduce the risk of injury so you can run hard without hurting yourself. Is there a way to warm up that achieves both goals – optimal performance and minimal risk of injury? Should you do static stretching or dynamic stretching? Should you jog and if so, for how long?

Surveys on runners have found “not stretching” and “not warming up enough” to be the most common reasons they believe were the reasons for suffering an injury. And runners know what’s best for them and know what they need. A 2012 study of 2729 runners divided them into either a group that did stretching before running or no-stretching. They measured the number of injuries in each group over time.

There wasn’t much difference between the groups, but there was one very interesting finding. The runners who had previosuly done stretching but were assigned to the no-stretching group were TWICE as likely to get injured. So if you’ve got a stretching routine you like to do, stick to it.

Other studies have compared static and dynamic stretching. Static stretching involves holding a stretch, such as when you put your foot up on a chair and hold it for 15 seconds to stretch your hamstrings. Dynamic stretching involves doing movement based flexibility exercises to increase your flexibility. An example might be high knee running or leg swings (anything from an Aerobics Oz Style video will do).

A few studies have found that static stretching can decrease muscle strength temporarily. But as we saw before, if you are used to doing it and it works for you, keep doing it. And the decrease in performance does not seem to occur until you do a lot of stretching. One study showed that doing a stretch twice for 15 seconds had no negative impact, but doing the same stretch 6 times for 15 seconds did negatively affect performance.

Most of the research favours dynamic mobility exercises. One study looked at the impact of doing a series of dynamic mobility drills on 3km race times. They found that those who did the drills “had a 6% improvement in running endurance and a 3% increase in 3km race performance”. Just by doing the right warm up, you can improve your endurance by 6%! To see the list of exercises click here.

In a nutshell, you should start with some light jogging. If you are used to stretching before running and that works for you, keep doing it, but stay at around 2 reps of each stretch. And include some dynamic mobility drills like those in the link above.

Studies on professional soccer players have found that those who do a warm up comprising jogging, static stretching, dynamic mobility and progress to some faster, short sprints are around 30-35% less likely to be injured.

Good luck trying these tips for your next training session or race and if you have any questions, feel free to contact me (chrisjonesosteo@gmail.com ).

Dr Christopher Jones (Osteopath) has been consulted by World and Olympic champion athletes and worked on the medical staff of national teams for Athletics Australia. Prior to studying to be an Osteopath he completed a Sports Science degree majoring in Exercise Science. As a junior he competed in the 800 and 1500m, gaining selection in the Australian Junior Athletics Team in 1995. He still enjoys running 3 times a week and if you see him training at ES Marks on a Tuesday night feel free to ask him any questions you may have (depending on how much of his session he has done, he may or may not be able to speak).

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