End of summer (part 2)

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Most people are probably thinking the same thing this week, so how did it get to September so quickly? Back to the school runs, back to work back to dark evening runs. Also after a summer of little activity a lot of runners will be hoping to ‘up’ their miles, get back on ‘it’ or ‘smash’ their training or whatever the current popular term is to describe a return to pre-vacation levels of fitness. However there’s the issue…launching back into something after a period of relative inactivity needs to be handled carefully. I’ll bet there’s a fresh spate of injuries that appear in any running club around mid-October timeframe as a result.

Some injuries can heal quickly, others less so. You will often hear runners talking about tired muscles and so on…ever hear anyone talk about connective tissues, unless of course they are sulking on the injury bench.

Most runners don't think about connective tissue until it hurts. We have a general awareness that our bodies contain structures like bones and ligaments to prevent us from collapsing into blobs, but that's it. Then we get our first dose of Achilles Tendinitis or Plantar Fasciitis or IT band syndrome….or until we sprain an ankle, tear cartilage in our knee or suffer a stress fracture. Then we become experts. We visit Sports injury clinics, Physiotherapists, Podiatrists, learn about the particular connective tissue we've injured, begin a lengthy course of therapy. It’s not cheap either. There is also a nasty truth: Once connective tissue damage is done, it's difficult to undo. Anyone with an IT band problem, will tell you how long it takes, even in mild cases, to recover.

Connective tissue is a catchall phrase for tissues that take many forms, from the areolar tissue, which binds skin to muscle, to the bones that comprise your skeleton. Connective tissues most associated with running include tendons, ligaments, cartilage and fascia. Most connective tissues adapt to training, but there's a catch: They adapt at a much slower rate than muscle. When you allow your muscle development to outpace connective tissue adaptation, the result can be injury. Runners begin training (again) and their lung function and muscles improve rapidly. They become encouraged, they increase the intensity and length of their sessions through equal parts ignorance and impatience. The euphoria of improvement and the desire to be back ‘in the game’ leads them to ignore sensible training patterns. The next thing they know, they've got Achilles tendinosis, tibial tendinitis or stress fractures in their feet. Their connective tissue couldn't cope with the increased workload, even though their muscles seemed fine.

Some connective tissues won't ever improve much with training. For these tissues, such as cartilage and ligaments, your emphasis needs to be on injury prevention. You must strengthen muscles that directly affect the tissues and use stretching and massage to reduce tissue tension. Most of all, training connective tissue requires patience. Get-fit-quick schemes rarely produce fast fitness; they produce injury.

So before launching back into training this September, try to think about allowing your body time to get back into ‘it’. Think about goals but also about how to reach them sensibly, injury free, and come December when everyone is thinking about their 2016 training goals…you’ll have one up if you’ve trained injury free through Autumn.

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