In the early 2000s, science told us that running too much has been the first reason in the increase of overuse injuries. But, is that really the end of the story? Be ready to change your running schedule!
There is quite a big noise about identifying multiple risk factors in running-related injuries (RRI). Personal characteristics, running shoes, body mass index (BMI), excessive pronation, running mechanics, weak hip muscles have been labelled to be directly related to RRI. However, just listing several factors is not helping runners at all!
We want to run as much as possible, simple as that! The sole prerequisite in keep doing what we love is to adopt prevention measures. That is why these studies lack a basic understanding: the cheapest and easiest way to optimize prevention is managing TRAINING REGIME!
TOWARDS A NEW UNDERSTANDING OF RRI
A new observational study conducted by a group of researchers in Luxembourg and Denmark seems to confirm the above hypothesis. Instead of focusing on multifactorial models, they considered training-related characteristics, weekly volume and weekly session frequency, as the sole source of investigation. Non-training-related variables, BMI and previous injuries, were identified as mere “intervening factors”.
A total of 517 runners took part in the study and they were free to follow their own training schedule. However, they were required to:
to train regularly and at least once a week;
to report each running session on a digital platform;
to report data related to crosstrain activities;
to report any case of injury or illness;
to have no medical contraindication.
Weekly running volume and weekly session frequency were respectively dichotomized as following:
Weekly running volume: < 2h and ≥ 2h;
Weekly running sessions: < 2 and ≥ 2.
Regarding BMI, it was defined within a specified range:
BMI: < 25 and ≥ 25kg.
Previous injury was instead identified as any RRI suffered during the previous year.
The study methodology was approved by the Ethics Committee for Research.
RESULTS: SHOULD I CUT MY WEEKLY MILEAGE?
The results are incredible and they completely contradict a common belief: running too much DOES NOT increase the risk of injuries!
The study revealed that a combination of <2h of weekly volume and <2 sessions a week is instead associated with higher injuries rate. What does it mean? The explanation is quite intuitive: the more you run the more you train. In other words, injury rate is highly affected by your fitness level: if you train in a discontinuous way, you will be more injury prone.
Another surprising conclusion relates to previous injury and BMI. While having suffered an injury in the last 12 months was identified as a major risk factor for those not following a regular training regime, body composition reported relevant values for runners with BMI <25kg who train less than two hours a week.
CONCLUSION: HOW CAN I PREVENT RRI?
Based on this study, the answer to this question is counterintuitive: run more! Anyway, since further investigations are needed, we should take these results with caution. The real factor at stake here is: your FITNESS LEVEL, or in other words, your training status.
Therefore, the best way to reduce injury risk is to stay regularly fit. That does not necessarily mean to run 50 miles every session, but rather adopting a training regime that includes regular physical activity throughout the week. It makes sense from this perspective to combine running with cycling, bodyweight exercises or swimming.
According to the above results, this is even more important for those having a story of previous injuries. Rather than returning to intense running, you should first work on regaining your fitness status.
Finally, BMI values do not justify overweight runners. In this case, we can suppose that on average those with BMI <25kg are simply more able to hold endurance training. We are talking about recreational runners that run just in the weekend covering higher miles per session. So, the suggestion here is to distribute running in a more even way and set realistic goals.
Based on scientific evidence from: “A step towards understanding the mechanisms of running-related injuries”, Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport