Dr. Fiddy Davis J is an Associate Professor and the Head of the Department of Exercise and Sports Sciences at School Of Allied Health Sciences, Manipal Academy of Higher Education. Anushka, a runner at MRC got an opportunity to interview him, and spoke to him about injury prevention and recovery.

Anushka: What are the most common injuries that runners are prone to?

Dr Fiddy:  The most common injury that I have seen runners experiencing is runner’s knee. Experiencing a tender pain around or behind the kneecap is usually a sure sign of patellofemoral pain syndrome, a fancy term for runner’s knee. It can occur because of downhill running, muscle imbalances, weak hips and overtraining. Another very common injury is Achilles tendinitis. It is the swelling of the Achilles, the tissues that connect your heel to your lower-leg muscles. Rapid mileage increase, improper footwear, tight calf muscles cause this injury. A few less serious injuries are shin splints, which occur when the muscles and tendons covering the shinbone become inflamed. Blisters, chaffing and side stitches are very commonly experienced during races due to poor choice of gear, improper hydration and under training.

Anushka: What are the easiest ways to remain injury free?

Dr Fiddy:  *laughs* You’ve really asked a million dollar question here! But it is imperative to remain injury free in order to get maximum benefits from your training plan. Some easy ways are warming up and cooling down for a period of 20 minutes each, before and after you run. The warm-up  gently prepares the body for exercises by gradually increasing the heart rate and circulation; this will loosen the joints and increase blood flow to the muscles. Stretching the muscles prepares them for physical activity and prevents injuries. While cooling down, helps your heart rate and breathing  return towards resting levels gradually. Another, way is to not overtrain, have easy runs and a rest day. Adequate hydration also prevents injury, since our bodies are approximately 80% water.

Anushka: Having an injury can very frustrating mentally, what are some of the best ways to cope with it?

Dr Fiddy:  Yes, I’ve seen many of my patients going into depression due to injuries. Mental health is definitely something that is overlooked when it comes to sports. Not being able to do something you’re passionate about is very frustrating. I recommend all my athletes to either cross train (swimming, cycling etc) or some kind of resistance and strength training. This will keep them occupied and fit. Other than that, talking to friends, family or a health professional about your mental health is extremely necessary.

Anushka: What is the importance of strength training for runners?

Dr Fiddy:  Strength work accomplishes three big goals for runners. It prevents injuries by strengthening muscles and connective tissues; it helps you run faster by improving neuromuscular coordination and power; and it improves running economy by encouraging coordination and stride efficiency. Especailly, strengthening your core, all of the muscles that surround and support your spine, will help your legs also grow stronger. Incorporating simple exercises to you training routine, like lunges, squats, planks, push-ups etc. will maximize athletic ability.

Anushka:  What is the importance of having “easy days” and “rest days”

Dr Fiddy:  Both of these days are very important and should be included in your training plan. While training for a half/full/ ultra marathon, most of your long runs should ideally be at an easy pace, which is about 30-40 seconds (per km) slower than your race pace. There needs to be a clear division between speed training and easy runs, since they both work on different systems in your body (anaerobic and aerobic respectively). Most runners overlook the importance of having a strong aerobic base, which can only be built by increasing your running frequency and doing long and easy runs. Rest days on the other hand, are just as important as working out because it plays an equal part of the total process required to build strength, endurance, and muscle. It further, prevents injury and overtraining. As a rule of thumb, one rest day per week is very essential in maximizing performance.

Anushka: How can runner maximize recovery?

Dr Fiddy: While thinking of recovery, we must think of the 4 R’s. Rest – Get a good night’s sleep – this is when most of your muscle repair will occur .Rehydrate – Replace fluid losses by drinking at regular intervals throughout the day. Repair – Eat 20g of protein soon after exercise to kick start muscle repair. Refuel – Eat carbohydrates to help restore energy – a minimum of 1g per kilogram bodyweight is a good general guide. Try to include complex carbohydrates(oatmeal, yam, sweet potatoes, quinoa)  rather than simple ones (white bread, corn syrup etc), since complex carbs keep the body full for a longer period of time.

Dr. Fiddy Davis

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