Category Archives: Avoiding Injury

Thursday Training Tip : Strong Running Needs Strong Glutes

Most runners know that core work and general strength work is an important tool for making you a better runner and preventing injuries. Almost every book, website and forum tells us that ‘core is king’ and we need to focus on this area.

I think they are still right – I do core and general strength workouts as part of my weekly training – but due to a recent calf injury I’ve found out about the importance of strengthening your glutes to help prevent injury – particularly overuse type injuries and lower limb injuries.

The reason the glutes are so important is because they form a key link between your lower limbs and your torso, especially when running. A weak gluteal area will cause imbalances in your whole kinetic chain, increasing your risk of injury. Your glutes are also responsible for providing rearward drive through your legs. Stronger glutes mean faster turnover and faster running.

However, glutes are hard to train as most exercises don’t isolate the area, allowing other muscles to be recruited to take the load. Plus, for those with desk jobs your hip flexors are often tight due to the hours of sitting, further inhibiting activation of the glutes. Adding glute strength exercises and hip flexor stretches into your routine will help you build strength in this key area and hopefully reduce your chance of injuries caused by a weak gluteal area.

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Marathon training : Mystery toe pain

Hmmm. I seem to be developing a new ‘injury’ – I use the word loosely – that I’ve not had before, and one that I’m having trouble pinpointing the cause, or remedy.

Recently I’ve developed pain in my second smallest toe on my right foot. Not thinking much of it I continued to run, and build up the miles as my marathon training went on. However, as the miles increased, so has the pain, until after a 10 mile run home from work on Wednesday I was in a lot of pain. Not enough to force me to abandon the run, but enough to make me nervous about how much it will be hurting after 26.2 miles in two weeks time. Read the rest of this entry

Training tips : Hydration Rules, OK!


Image credit

It would appear that most of Europe and the US are experiencing very high temperatures and humidity levels at the moment, weather which is energy sapping at best, but downright dangerous at worst. This is particularly so for runners, for whom access to fluids or respite from heat can be hard to come by, especially on a long run.

Most runners know that staying hydrated is key when exercising. The body sweats water to aid in cooling in order to maintain body temperature. If you become dehydrated, this cooling effect is minimised, or can even stop, which puts you into real danger. Taking in too little water risks the dangerous effects of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

However, this doesn’t mean that you should chug pints, gallons, bathtubs of water before running on hot days. With everything, too much of a good thing is always a bad idea. Too much water and you run the risk of hyponatraemia, an extremely dangerous condition whereby excessive water intake causes an imbalance in electrolyte levels, due to dilution of the blood and corresponding lowering of sodium levels. Some common symptoms of hyponatraemia include nausea and vomiting, confusion, fatigue, muscle weakness, spasms and cramps, however extremely low sodium levels can cause seizures or coma.

In light of this, it was timely when the other week Runners World released some advice, busting 8 of the most popular ‘myths’ about hydration, which I have paraphrased below. Please do read their full article for the full information. Read the rest of this entry

Ankle Injury recovery : Or Refereeing as cross-training?!?

There’s something strange at play here…

On Wednesday I posted some ankle exercises I’ve been using to rehab my ankle, a video by OfficiallyFit, for referees/officials.

I made the point that I’m not an official, but the exercises are good, which is why I used them.

Well, some sort of karma circle has obviously been closed.

Today, I umpired a game of Aussie rules football. The regular umpire for our league game did a no-show and, as I was planning only to run water because of my sprain, someone decided the duty should fall on my shoulders. The last time I umpired a match I was 16, which was 18 years ago…

And it was under-14s, not a senior league game…

I’ll admit I was a bit rusty and I certainly missed a few free-kicks, but overall I got both teams through the game with, I hope, consistent umpiring. I’m sure the peanut gallery would comment “consistently bad” about now…

The plus side though is I covered just over 12km, of fartlek style training. And it was a good test of the ankle. I’m just glad I decided to wear my Garmin just in case!


Link to my Garmin log 

Which means there is nothing stopping me from commencing marathon training Monday. Gulp…


Get Going, Get Running!

Exercising when there’s no time : Or, Why am I at work this late?!?

Killer day. Stupid work. Expletives!

8.30am meeting to start the day, walked out of the office at 11.02pm. My mind is so mushy right now I’m struggling to decide if that is 14 1/2 or 15 1/2 hours. No, 14 1/2 hours.

Bleurgh. I’m writing this post on my phone in the taxi home.

I feel like opening the front door when I get home and just passing out on the doormat. But, I will exercise tonight.

I will!

I wrote it here, and knowing you will all read it keeps me honest!

So, here’s the plan…
– Get home
– Kiss girlfriend on cheek as she slumbers
– Change into shorts and t-shirt
– Turn on TV
– 1 set of ankle strength exercises
– 1 set of 20 squats
– 1 set of 20 Bulgarian squats
– 1 set of 20 Lunges
– Turn off TV
– Brush teeth
– Sleep
– Wake up, reset and reload for another day
– Crush my 8.30am client meeting
– End the week on a high

Or something like that…

See! There’s always time for exercise if you make time for it.

Happy running (or squatting) everyone!


Get Going, Get Running!

Ankle injury : Rehabilitation commences. Or: the test of stupid…

While at the physiotherapist today for an ongoing hamstring issue I mentioned my ankle sprain to my physio. She did a quick assessment and confirmed for me that it was a grade 1 sprain of the ATFL in the lateral ligament area.

An image of the lateral ligament complex highlighting the ATFL

Image credit

On the plus side, it turned out my ankle mobility was good (thanks to all the alphabet writing!) and strength did not seem impaired. All good news, until:

Her: “You’ll be fine for your game next weekend.

Me: “No, my game is this weekend.

Her: “Um…No, it’s not…

Me: “Oh…

Continues: “On a scale of 1 to ‘stupid’ how bad would it be if I played?

Her: “Pretty stupid. Not Darwin Award stupid, but stupid.

Me: “So not a good idea then?”

Her response was to start dry-needling my hamstring instead. Point made. (Very droll pun – I know).

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Ankle injury : the recovery continues but life must go on

It’s been one of those days where all the things you need to do for recovery from an ankle injury are exactly the things you can’t do.

Today I spent over half the day touring around London with my client looking at office fit-outs for examples of the good, bad and downright ugly. Poor choice for a sprained ankle but not going wasn’t an option.

And to top it off, tonight I went to a gig (Catpower – excellent!) with 3 hours of standing.

All great stuff for an ankle! Not…

Anyway, the moral of this little story is ‘life goes on‘.

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Ankle sprain : 72 hours from injury – let the recovery commence!

As I suspected my ankle sprain is pretty minor. Lucky for me! And now that the acute phase is over, it’s time to start the recovery phase.

Before I left for work this morning I strapped my ankle to provide support when walking, and of course minimised my walking throughout the day. Sometimes having an office job without much standing or walking can be a bonus!

My workout tonight consisted of strength and core exercises that didn’t strain my ankle, and a series of ankle mobility exercises to get everything moving. I noticed that there is still a very small amount of pain (like a 1 out of 10) on full flexion, though dorsiflexion and inversion (rolling inwards) are pretty much pain free – a good sign!

Here is the video I used for my ankle mobility exercises:

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Cross training : A vital part of your training. But try not to fall over…

Cross training – doing other exercises that are complimentary to running – is usually accepted as a good idea, and a valuable part of your training.

Except when this happens…

An image showing 2 angles of a right ankle sprain with lateral ligament complex

Swelling and minor bruising to right ankle

Cause – A stumble on an uneven Aussie rules football pitch.

Result – a sprained ankle and probably a week off running.

This isn’t a mopey article however. I am a firm believer in cross training and the benefits it can have for your running. I know I am probably going to miss a week or so of running, but the cardio fitness and stamina I have gained from training and playing Aussie rules still outweighs the negative of a week off running.

Anyway, I could have tripped over while jogging and done as much damage – sometime stuff just happens!

The main point of this post is that the important thing is not the injury itself (as I said, stuff happens), but managing the injury properly in order to minimise the time off exercise.

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Plantar fasciitis : the recovery continues

With seemingly more episodes than the Star Wars saga you might be getting sick of my Plantar Fasciitis posts, however I hope this post is able to be of some use to you in your recovery as well.

Before we get ahead of ourselves – I am not fully recovered – it is a long process. I am not yet at the ability level I was before my injury, but I am getting closer! For instance, I am back to training with my Australian Rules Football team (about 5km of Fartlek style training per session) and have even played two competitive matches. However, I still get pain if I stand for too long in unsupportive work shoes and I still have noticeable tightness in my plantar fascia after I wake. The shooting pain through the heel in the first steps of the morning is gone though. Thank heavens!

I am also happy to report that I was able to spend the long weekend in sunny Istanbul (lucky me!) walking around all day and night, without too much in the way of whingeing from my plantar fascia. Sure, it got tight and a little tender, but static stretches on my calves and Achilles and a couple of Ibuprofen were able to sort it out enough that I could be on my feet for most of the day, for 3 days in a row.

Moving swiftly on to the subject at hand, I credit my recovery so far to:

  1. no running during the acute phase, following my diagnosis
  2. use of massage, ice therapy and ibuprofen (no more than recommended dosage) to reduce inflammation
  3. a strong focus on static stretches to elongate calf muscles, Achilles heel and the plantar fascia itself
  4. in the sub-acute phase the use of cross-training to maintain cardio fitness, a gradual build-up to running, and the continuation of my static stretching routine
  5. Time. Most injuries react positively to time, and I haven’t pushed the boundaries in trying to get back to running and it think this has helped

Now that I am getting much less pain and am returning to running, I am trying to strengthen my feet with exercises to make sure my foot musculature is up to the rigours of  running. I am now 22 weeks out from a marathon and it’s about time to get running! While looking for exercises to help strengthen my foot and lower limbs I stumbled upon some great exercises on the Vibram Five Fingers website. The exercises are actually for assisting in transitioning from ‘regular’ running to ‘barefoot’ running; however I think that foot and lower limb strength are just as important for regular runners and the exercises are certainly suitable for runners who still wear shoes. Certainly they seem to be helping me with my foot strength.

Here are the Vibram foot exercises I have been doing:

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