Most runners will face some kind of injury during their running careers. There are a wide range of causes of injuries in runners, these can be broadly categorised as overuse/chronic or sudden/acute.
There are a few reasons we might find ourselves suffering from overuse injuries and how we manage the volume of our training is obviously important here. Another factor that we can control is how well conditioned our bodies are. Strong, stable joints will be better able to deal with any training volume, reducing the likelihood of overuse injuries. They will also help you to maintain good running form and technique, reducing the strain on the tissues.
Stronger joints will also be more robust and less vulnerable to sudden injuries from slips or falls. Ankle injuries are common in runners, either chronic or acute. Acute injuries such as sprains or strains become more likely as we run on technical trails.
To give yourself the greatest chance of avoiding injury, adding some strength and stability exercises to your training are essential. Just running more will not achieve this.
It is useful to periodically do some testing to check in and see how strong we are. For the ankles there are a few simple tests, remembering that balance is a function of strength.
- 1 legged stand - how long can you comfortably stand on one leg without losing your balance. Aim for at least one minute without falling. If that is easy, try it with your eyes closed. Keep a record of your times to track improvements, or deterioration.
- The walking drill in the video is a great way to check your strength. Always start with stage 1 and only move to the next stage once you are able to move slowly and in control, pausing at the top of each move.
The video demonstrates a simple 5 minute circuit to give you some ideas. You can either add the exercises to your warm-up, do the full 5 minutes once or twice a week or steal a couple of bits to do on their own.
Don’t rush to make the exercises harder with a balance cushion, or progress through the walking drill, only move on once you are finding the exercises easy and can perform them well, in good control. Quality is much more important than speed or quantity.
The beauty of these exercises is that you can do them anywhere, anytime. Any time stood on one leg, challenging your balance will improve neurological recruitment of the muscle fibres and ankle control. Try doing some heal raises while you wait for the kettle to boil or stand on a balance cushion while you are cleaning your teeth!