Today I will be looking at the next two laws of Tim Noakes' 10 Laws of Running Injuries.

Law 3: Each injury indicates the athlete has reached the point of breakdown
Law 4: Virtually all true running injuries are curable

Let's start with Law 3: Each injury indicates the athlete has reached the point of breakdown.

By recognizing that when we become injured, we have exceeded the bodies ability to adapt to the training stress we have been applying to it, and it has broken down.

This breakdown might be experienced as a Grade I injury, or as a Grade 4 injury (see Law 2: Each running injury progresses through four grades).

The challenge is identifying exactly why, at this specific point, our body was unable cope, and the break down occurred. For some it might not be that difficult.

Sometimes, just by evaluating our training over the proceeding weeks, and by looking at our training volume progression, the assignment of training intensity or whether anything was added or removed from or program, can make it a little bit clearer as why the injury developed.

On the other side of the coin, we need to accept that very few of us are genetically gifted runners, and our bodies have genetic limitations as to how much training and racing it can tolerate.

Furthermore, we are genetically limited by our bodies ability to respond to the training stimuli, to the selection of shoes available to us etc. The are individuals who seem to always be injured, and it is clear that they have not discovered or accepted, the limit of their genetic abilities.

As a result, they continue to become injured as a result of either not recognizing their limitations, or just ignoring them.

There seem to be 3 possible contributors to injuries that we can evaluate, that might help us better understand why the break down occurred.

  1. Training surfaces:
    Most distance running is completed on concrete or tar surfaces, which are extremely hard and often cambered.

    Our musculo-skeletal system requires time to become accustomed to training on these hard and uneven surfaces.

    These surfaces can alter an individuals running biomechanics and can even create anatomical imbalances, such as leg length differences when running on a cambered surface.

    Whatever the surface you select to train on, whether it is a sidewalk or a grassy field, be sure to give your body ample time to get used to the surface before aggressively adding training volume and intensity.

  2. Training shoes:

    All running shoes have a finite life expectancy, after which, the support and protection they are supposed to offer, no longer occurs.

    Most shoes offer between 400 - 600km of service, before Grade 1 and perhaps Grade 2 injuries begin to manifest.

    Of course it is recommended to invest in new footwear before these "niggles" surface, and usually, with the new shoes on, they tend to disappear.

    Often changing the brand of shoe used or the model of shoe can lead to problems arising, so if you find a shoe that works for you, stick with it.

    Not sure which running shoe is correct for you type? Watch this Video!

  3. Training methods:

    When we talk about training methods we tend to look at factors such as:
    • Training volume
    • Training intensity
    • The amount of racing

    This can be seen as an individual doing too much, too soon, going too fast, too frequently.

    Often, the excitement experienced at the start of a persons running career (in the first 3 months), is where the development of injuries occurs most frequently i.e. being overly ambitious.

    The reason for the increased risk during the first months of running is because the Cardio-Vascular system and the bodies muscles adapt the the training stimulus a lot faster than the bodies connective tissue (Tendonds, bones and fascia), potentially resulting in the development of tendonitis and stress fractures.

    Muscle imbalances also occur between opposing muscle groups used in running, so incorporating stretching and resistance training, can play a tremendous role in reducing injuries.

    For example, the muscle on the back of the body: posterior calves, the hamstrings and the Back, tend to become less flexible and overly strong with continued running.

    The front of the body suffers the opposite: The anterior calves, The quadriceps and the abdominal muscles, become weak and over flexible.

    Strengthening and Lengthening these muscle groups will reduce the risk of injuries arising as a result of muscle imbalances.

    Stretching / Lengthening routine:

    This is a simple yet effective Strengthening routine, for runners of all levels.
Law 4 says that if it is a true running injury, then it can be cured.

When we talk about true running injuries we are looking at injuries that have occurred directly as a result of the training and the mechanics of running.

There are certain scenarios where an injury might not be curable.
  1. When an individual has severe biomechanical abnormalities, they will continue to battle with injury.

    For example, a runner with an excessive Q-angle (the angle the thigh bone lies at between the hip joint and knee joint), will always be more at risk than an individual with a less extreme Q-angle.

  2. When injuries result in a severe degeneration of a structure , such as the Achilles (Calcaneal) tendon.
  3. A running program is started with a pre-existing injury, or a structure that has been damaged or operated on, such as a football players knee, which had trauma to it from playing football, is more injury prone than an undamaged knee.
If you are suffering from an injury, and you are not getting the results from the treatment strategy you are following, do not be fearful of look for a professional guidance elsewhere, someone who will assist you to return to injury free running.

James Greenwood is a competitive tri and multisport athlete currently training for Ironman Canada 2009. A level 1 Triathlon Coach, he holds a post graduate degree in Exercise Science, and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA. James is also currently the resident health and fitness programs expert at, and has starred in a number of multisport specific fitness videos.
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