Running is a great sport – but it can also be unhealthy. Especially if you overdo it.
Author: Dr. med. Patrik Noack
Specialist for General Internal Medicine SGIM and Sports Medicine SGSM, co-head of medicine
Medbase Center for Medicine and Sport in Abtwil
With every step, your feet absorb 2.5 times your body weight at the moment of impact. The amount of work the body can tolerate varies greatly from person to person. However, if the musculoskeletal system is gradually accustomed to the load, tendons, muscles, joints and bones can usually keep up well.
As long as the pain in the musculoskeletal system is only slight (two to three on a scale from zero to ten) and disappears quickly on its own, you can continue to train – but you should keep it in check. Because further excessive strain can lead to “over-training injuries”. Therefore, recovery after training should be given the same priority as the training itself.
Over-training injuries are usually due to overloading and rarely the result of accidents. These complaints can occur in untrained people after only a few training sessions if the workload was higher than the musculoskeletal system tolerates.
However, over-training injuries are more frequent in intense runners who do not listen to their own body enough and who are driven by ambition: But overachieving can cause physical problems.
Overloading is accompanied by various basic factors that also favor over-training injuries. These include, for example, legs of varying lengths, malpositions such as knock-knees or bow legs, previous injuries, age-related signs of wear and tear and also unstable joints or ligaments.
The most common runner injuries
The most common over-training injuries are summarized in these tables:
What to do in case of symptoms
If the first symptoms become apparent, patience is required. It is worth it, because if you get overtraining injury there is a significantly longer recovery period.
The first thing to do is to reduce the amount of training for one to two weeks. Instead of running, sports that are less stressful for the musculoskeletal system are a good idea. Cycling, for example, is usually possible despite the discomfort of running.
Aquatraining is most gentle on muscles, joints, tendons and bones. If this works without pain, the next step would be training on a cross-trainer, followed by a stepper and treadmill before going outside again for a run.
You should only train properly when you feel well again and your confidence in your body has returned. Supporting bandages, well-fitted running shoes, insoles or other aids can be a good help. Kinesiotapes can also help, for example with muscle injuries or hardening.
If you want to prevent overtraining injuries, you should set yourself reasonable goals, plan and monitor your training well and ensure the necessary recovery.
Without special attention, runners usually lack the necessary core stability. If you don’t want an overtraining injury, you will therefore have to strengthen your core muscles, because they provide good stability. This is especially true for athletes who have had back problems in the past.
In 2002, an interesting study compared the back and abdominal muscles of runners with different levels of training. The result: there were no significant differences, regardless of whether someone regularly ran a lot or a few kilometres. Running training per se, therefore, has no effect on the core muscles.
Various tests show where the runner stands in terms of mobility and muscle length. Here, too, deficits must be remedied through targeted training.
For example, it has proven to be a good idea to alternate running training with cycling, swimming and cross-training on a regular basis. Training in leg axis stability and foot gymnastics round off the program. Muscular imbalances in the legs also promote complaints.
- In the beginning, 20 minutes of training, two to three times a week, is sufficient
- Walk for two to three minutes in between
- Do not increase the amount of training every week, but at monthly intervals
- If possible, walk on pleasantly soft ground
- Do not exercise if you have a fever
- Paying attention to healthy nutrition
- Food supplements are usually not necessary and should not be taken routinely, but only when needed or according to blood analyses