Whether you've just started a couch to 5k or you're on your way to your first marathon, running injuries can strike at the worst time. Don't let them stop you in your tracks. HOKA ONE ONE ambassador Michelle Dillon shares what she's learned about injury prevention.
Running is a great sport partly because it is so simple; you grab your running shoes, no matter where you are in the world, and you can go for a run. It’s probably one of the best workouts and easiest ways to get fit quickly.
One of the most frustrating things about running, however, is getting injured, especially when you’re training for a specific event or even if you just love to run every day.
Over the years I have clocked up a lot of running miles. I come from a running background and started out at the age of eight. I competed at the Commonwealth Games over 10,000m, won various international road and cross-country races and my PB for 10,000m was 31:40.
In my early 20s I would run up to 160km per week and I'd feel great. I would have a string of great performances and would be in the best form of my life then BANG, I would pick up an injury.
I had several stress fractures in my running career, some of which put me in plaster and out of running for almost a year. Eventually, I moved to triathlon and competed at two Olympic Games.
Ultimately, I had to have double spinal fusion (don’t ask!) which forced me into retirement.
I made a lot of mistakes in training back then by trying to run through injuries, which you learn from, thank goodness, as you get older. You certainly don’t want to make the same mistakes twice. Thankfully I am still able to run today.
So what can you do to help prevent getting injured? Here are a few things I have learnt over the years (which unfortunately I didn’t do when I was younger!):
- Back off immediately when you feel a pain that doesn’t feel normal creeping up on you; whatever you do don’t try to run through the pain!
- Get yourself a good gym programme that strengthens your core, glutes, hamstrings and calves and do this religiously 3 times per week all throughout the year.
- Be sensible with the amount of mileage you are putting in, and this applies to speedwork as well; don’t overdo it. The key is getting the balance right between training and allowing your body to get adequate recovery.
- Vary the surfaces you run on: don’t always run on the road, or soft surfaces either, but mix it up giving your body and joints a break from the same surface all the time. Smooth grass fields can be great if you are wanting to give your body a bit of relief.
- Cross-training counts for a lot. When my running career was over I moved into triathlon which taught me a lot about cross-training. Swimming and cycling are fantastic ways to maintain cardio fitness and give you an overall body workout. Also, cross-training can have a hugely positive impact on your overall running performance, as I have found myself because you can do a greater volume of training without breaking down.
I’m now 46 yrs old and have been running my own coaching business called Team Dillon Coaching for the last 12yrs. I have come back to compete in age-group triathlon in the last two years and I’ve won two world titles.
I’m enjoying my running more now than when I was in my 20’s because I run on average 3-4 times per week, I cross-train, I do gym work and I still race well for my age. It’s all about balance. Find the best balance for you and stick with it. Most of all, stay injury-free and enjoy your running!!!
Words supplied by Michelle Dillon for HOKA ONE ONE