Neil Featherby: ‘New’ runners means new injuries

New runners must take care or they will end up with injuries Picture: DONNA-LOUISE BISHOP

New runners must take care or they will end up with injuries Picture: DONNA-LOUISE BISHOP - Credit: Archant

Having recently set up a new email advice line at Sportlink to help advise customers on potential footwear purchases from our new online website service, I think it is fair to say I opened the floodgates.

Is treadmill running fair on virtual racing challenges? Picture: PA

Is treadmill running fair on virtual racing challenges? Picture: PA - Credit: PA

It is obviously not a problem and something which we will continue to run with (excuse the pun), but at the same time it can also be pretty time-consuming.

However, my biggest concerns is messages from those who have only taken up exercise since lockdown and, like the rest of us, are now finding out just how addictive running can become.

The problem is, a fairly big number of people amongst this latest influx of running converts really have just put on a pair of trainers and taken to the roads with perhaps a little too much enthusiasm and, like so many others in the past (including myself), have done too much, too soon – and have now got hurt.

Needless to say, they now don’t want to stop, despite, in one or two cases, sounding like they really are trying to run in a lot of discomfort; I have a feeling a lot of physiotherapists and sports therapists will soon be inundated for appointments once normal service is resumed.

The old saying, walk before you run, springs to mind and whilst this may not be applicable to everyone, in most cases it is all about starting out very gently to allow the body to come to terms with all the new stresses which are being applied during what is a weight-bearing form of exercise.

Lots of people worry more about the effects on their cardiovascular system – “I can’t run for a bus never mind run a mile,” when first taking up running. But when you also consider the impact from each foot strike can be between two and three times the person’s body weight at perhaps 160 times a minute, this is what usually ends up being the biggest issue.

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It really is a big shock to the bones, joints and muscles initially. If done correctly it will hopefully just be a case of experiencing a few aches and a little stiffness. However, it can of course lead to a more serious injury if we don’t allow for bodily adaptations through what should be a very gradual increase in the work load.

In a nutshell, even with the very best running shoes on your feet, you will still get hurt if you do too much, too soon.

The couch to 5k programme is undoubtedly a very good way for beginners, especially those who haven’t done any exercise for a number of years or perhaps feel they could do with losing a bit of weight.

It is fantastic that so many more people are now discovering just how running really is such a great way to stay on top of our physical and mental wellbeing, but at the same time, it is also very important they start out very carefully and, of course, keep it going for many more years to come. If done correctly they may even go on to eventually run in a big event such as the Run Norwich 10k or a full-blown marathon one day.

With so many virtual races of all distances the only form of testing yourself against others, it didn’t take long for those who are at the top end of the competitive spectrum to really put their mark on some of these challenges.

At Sportlink, we ran a Virtual 5K race during March which was also based on age grade ability and then followed the success of this up with another event in April.

As yet, I have not posted the results from our latest challenge due to many emails, private messages and even telephone calls complaining it is not a level playing field.

When we launched it, we said it was open to all – all they had to do was post a 5K time which they had run during the month, be it on road, off road or even on a treadmill. However, we also said the biggest factor was just about having a bit of fun along the way to help break up solitary training runs.

Well, whilst it has been fun, we have also had a few complaints saying treadmills should not be included and that some people are cheating due to running on courses which are downhill and even completing their runs via short bursts and increments, ie, running parts of the distance as fast as they can before resting and going again.

In truth, I find it hilarious as none of it fits in with my way of thinking and I can’t really understand why anyone would want to cheat or bend the rules.

At the same time, though, it also makes me smile at the way it has caused debate over something which is nothing other than a “virtual” but unreal event.

With that, all I am going to say is roll on some real racing again when I am now more than sure the top guys battling it out at the front of the field will be going out of their way to prove just how good they are and of course who really is the best.

Bring it on...