Stay out of the physio’s office by decoding those little niggles.
There’s nothing more frustrating than being sidelined by injury – except coming back from said injury. You know how it goes: three weeks out of training, and suddenly you’re lifting a fraction of the weight and running half the distance you used to. The best way to save yourself from despair? Catch and fix that niggle before it can take you out of the game.
Ouch! Leg Cramp
Fix it: Stretch it out
“The main cause of an exercise-associated muscle cramp is fatigue at the site where the muscle and nerve join,” explains WH fitness expert Dr Kim Nolte. “Also keep in mind that some cramps are not associated with fatigue during exercise, but are rather linked to certain medical conditions. If you get cramp regularly, it’s worthwhile consulting your physician about it.” Stretching lengthens your muscle fibres, so they can contract and tighten more vigorously when you exercise. So when cramp strikes, try stretching your calves, hamstrings and quad muscles.
Ouch! Shin Splints
Fix it: Change your footwear
Shin splints are the result of trauma to the connective muscle tissue between your knee and ankle. Common reasons for this pain include bone stress, poor circulation, inflammation, increased pressure in muscle compartments and trapped nerves, and it usually begins when you increase your running distance or speed. First, treat the pain with rest, ice and anti-inflammatories. Secondly, get your hooves some padding. A study from the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise found that you can prevent shin splints with shock-absorbing innersoles. Also, talk to a biokineticist about having a foot- and gait-alignment assessment.
Ouch! Runner’s Knee
Fix it: Stop
“Runner’s knee, or malalignment of the knee cap, is caused by flat feet, weak inner-thigh muscles or overtraining,” says orthopaedic surgeon Dr Jason Crane from MediClinic Cape Town. Pushing through the pain could cause permanent damage to the cartilage. “Take a six-week break and concentrate on cross-training. Your knee will be able to recover and your times are likely to improve when you do go back to running,” says Crane.
Fix it: Regulate your breathing
Experts still aren’t sure what causes them, although theories range from reduced blood supply to the diaphragm to trapped gas pockets. Good news is there’s no need to stop completely. Instead, use this trick from ultra-distance trail runner Linda Doke: empty your lungs, and when you breathe in, fill your belly rather than your chest (you’ll need to push your stomach out like a pot-belly). Do this repeatedly until the stitch is gone.
Ouch! Feeling Winded
Fix it: Walk to warm up
“Getting out of breath from running is common, especially for beginners, as your body tries to cope with the demand for oxygen to the muscles,” explains Rico Groenewald, owner of Adventure Boot Camp for Women in George, who has run 30 marathons. Warming up adequately may help to prevent winding, but if you’re well in your stride, “slow down to a walk and aim for walk/run intervals,” he says. Then go back to your run. Warming up prepares your body for the workout ahead, by gradually increasing your breathing rate.
Read to get back on the road? These steps will help you get back into running after being out of the game from injury, plus three surprising things that can impact your pace.