Prevent Running Injuries by Building Fitness

Ultra runners on a 40 mile training run.

Fitness as injury-prevention…

got another “thumbs up” earlier this year when a British Journal of Sports Medicine article reported on a study of elite athletes.  The Australian study concluded that a gradual and consistent training schedule protected against injury even when intensity and volume reached very high levels.  This supports the idea that “graded” increases in volume and intensity works to prevent running injuries.  “The appropriately graded prescription of high training loads should improve [athlete’s] fitness, which in turn may protect against injury, ultimately leading to greater physical outputs and resilience in competition…”prevent running injuries

This may surprise some athletes and coaches that believe that reduction in training volume helps to prevent running injuries.  While that may seem logical, that training less would reduce risk of injury, it turns out that building fitness is the key to reducing injury.  The January 2016 study showed that the “acute:chronic” training ratio was more important in predicting injury than looking at training intensity or volume alone.  Basically the acute:chronic ratio can be thought of as the ratio between one’s weekly training (volume or intensity) compared to one’s monthly training. Otherwise known as the “fatigue:fitness” ratio, the measure looks at current work versus the athlete’s recent work or preparedness.

The 10% Rule to prevent running injuries?

Runner’s may have understood this principle as the “10% rule”. In order to prevent running injuries, you should increase your weekly mileage by no more than 10% each week.  And, it turns out that that rule is fairly accurate.  But, we should be thinking of more than just mileage when applying this rule.  Take into consideration, pace, intensity and exertion when increasing training volume.  This can’t always be done by-the-numbers.  Take for example a ten-mile-per-week runner.  This runner should be able to add one mile per week to their volume (for now).  But we must also consider the runner’s volume over the past 4-6 weeks.  Has there been consistent volume (fitness) sufficient enough to sustain that extra mile (fatigue)?  What about adding speed-work?  That type of high intensity should add enormous value to the fatigue side of the ratio.  Is there enough fitness to support that increase?  “Excessive and rapid increases in training loads are likely responsible for a large proportion of non-contact, soft-tissue injuries.”


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