Jess Trengove: tips to prevent an injury

Months out from the Rio Olympics, marathon runner Jessica Trengove was faced with an unexpected obstacle. 

A foot injury threw a spanner in the works of her intense training regime. But the determined 28-year-old’s focus never wavered from her goals. She adjusted her training plan and focused on rehabilitation. Jessica has emerged mentally stronger, her motivation is high and she’s has learnt some positive lessons.

Jessica, who is also a physiotherapist and Pilates instructor shares her tips on avoiding injury while training for a race – whether it’s a fun run or a marathon.

1.  Build up training volume and intensity gradually

It is important to build up training volume and intensity gradually to minimise risk of injury. Rapid increases in either may result in an imbalance between damage to bone and soft tissue versus repair and growth. 

A rule that my coach, Adam Didyk and I generally try to stick to is no more than a 10 percent increase in running volume from one week to the next. This helps my soft tissues and bones to absorb the new load and develop the necessary strength to withstand a slightly greater load the following week. 

2.  Work on having good strength and control of your hip, gluteal and calf muscles 

As a runner, it is important to have good strength and control of the muscles of the pelvis, hip and lower leg to maintain good form whilst running and to maximise efficiency. Ultimately, this should help to minimise injury and improve performance. 

3.  Wear appropriate footwear

Footwear is very specific to the individual. Posture, training history, current training load, and injury status are some of the factors that can help determine whether or not a particular running shoe is appropriate for you. Good marketing may result in you choosing a shoe that is perhaps not ideal for you. 
I would recommend either choosing a shoe that has worked well for you in the past, seeking advice from a health care professional (who has experience in the area), or visiting a specialty running store when buying a pair of running shoes.

4.  Appropriate warm up before intense activity

Warm ups are important to help mentally and physically prepare my body for the upcoming session or race. A jog followed by some dynamic drills and strides helps to increase the blood flow to my tissues, pre-activate the relevant muscle groups, take my joints through their necessary ranges of motion and prepare my neural system for the activity ahead. This is an important part of my injury prevention routine. 

My warm up tip would be to jog for a period that is long enough for you to feel relaxed and supple but not fatigued. I warm up for 20 minutes during marathon training to add some extra volume to the session however I feel adequately warmed up at about 12 minutes. I follow my jog with some leg swings and then dynamic drills over a 15m distance for about 5 minutes  i.e. ankle rolls, high knees and a skipping-type action with high knees. I then perform up to five run throughs with increasing effort, including a couple in the shoes that I will be wearing for my session or race. 

5.  Ensure a proper recovery between runs

It is important to allow adequate recovery between runs for your body to fully absorb and respond to training. This time-frame will vary for everyone depending on factors such as fitness and training history. One to two days between runs should be adequate for a beginner, whereas half a day may be acceptable for a highly trained athlete. Runners should be guided by fatigue and how they feel both physically and mentally. 

6.  Listen to your body

It is important to recognise that pain or discomfort is your body's way of signalling that damage is potentially being done and a change needs to occur. When I feel a niggle, I initially think of recent changes to my training or equipment that may have contributed to my concern. My coach and I make adjustments accordingly and if these don't improve situation within a couple of days, I arrange for an assessment with a health professional. 

If you experience pain, an unusual level of fatigue or something that doesn't feel right, my advice would be to back off training for a day or two. If there is no improvement, I would recommend seeking the advice of a health professional to investigate the cause and come up with a management strategy. 

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