If you’re a runner, chances are you’ve heard about speed training and its many benefits. Both seasoned marathoners and recreational joggers swear by speed-work for their fitness gains. Speed training involves adding high intensity intervals, such as sets of sprints, to your regular workout. This will not only build on your average speed, but improve your overall endurance and comfort while running as well.
Speed training is a challenging way to shake up your workout routine and reach your ultimate fitness goals, but, if you’re not careful, it can also lead to injury. If you push yourself too hard in the pursuit of personal bests, you could ultimately set yourself back. That’s why it’s so important to practice safety when it comes to such intense workouts.
Ready to get stronger, fitter, and faster? Then speed training is for you. But first, make sure that you’re aware of these common speed training injuries and how to prevent them!
“Runner’s Knee” is an extremely common injury among – you guessed it – runners. This term can actually refer to a number of different knee injuries, but most often means Patellofermoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS) or Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS). PFPS causes pain mostly around and behind the kneecap, while ITBS causes more acute pain on the outside of the knee. Overuse and poor training can easily cause these kinds of knee injuries. Runners who introduce speed training into their workouts often try to run too much, too fast – and their knees suffer for it.
If you jump into speed training without working on your strength first, you put your knees at risk. In order to prevent knee injuries, you need to pace yourself. Alternate speed-work with strength exercises so you can build up the muscles you need, like your quadriceps (Squats and thrusts are your friends here). Strong legs mean you’ll be able to keep your knees properly aligned, even when you’re sprinting.
Your Achilles tendon is what attaches your calf muscles to your heel bone, and without it, you wouldn’t be able to walk, run, or dance! But when that Achilles tendon gets irritated, your heel can swell painfully, making running a unpleasant experience. This injury can happen as a result of poor warm-ups and strained calves, and is very common in speed training. Untreated, Achilles tendonitis can even lead to a torn tendon and require surgery. So if you’re experiencing discomfort and swelling in your heels, consult a doctor before heading back to the gym.
To prevent Achilles tendonitis in the first place, make sure you’re warming up properly! Even if you’re used to speed, it’s always best to start with a gentle jog to get your muscles warm and ready. Adding intense intervals of speed to your run can take a toll on your calves, so if you’re speed training it’s important to give them some extra TLC. You should be stretching out your calves before and after speed training workouts. If you think you’re prone to Achilles Tendonitis, it’s a good idea to stretch every morning too, even if you don’t have a run planned.
The hamstring is the muscle group that runs down the back of each thigh, and allows you to bend your knees and move your hips freely. If those muscles get strained, it’s definitely going to have an effect on your workout. When exercising, if you feel a sudden, sharp pain in the back of your thigh, you may have pulled your hamstring! This injury can range anywhere from mildly uncomfortable to debilitating pain that leaves you unable to walk. Hamstring strains can occur when the muscles are pushed past their limits, especially during sudden, intense movements like sprints.
These injuries are even more likely to occur if your hamstrings are overtired, which can easily happen during rigorous speed-work. To prevent a hamstring strain during speed training, it is important to listen to your body. Although speed training is all about challenging yourself, it’s also about knowing your limits. If your legs feel weirdly weak and shaky after a set of sprints, don’t try to push through another set. You can also avoid muscle fatigue by doing your speed training drills towards the start of your workout, rather than the end.
Stress fractures are tiny cracks that form in bones that have been shocked by repetitive force – such as the force of feet against pavement. Over time, a build up of minor running injuries can result in stress fractures in the heels, feet, shins, and even hips. If you’re into speed training, you have to be careful – a stress fracture can occur if the intensity of your run increases too quickly. These injuries can be very painful, especially if you try to run through them. (Please don’t!) If you think you have a stress fracture, a doctor can determine whether you need a brace or crutches to help you heal.
Stress fractures are unfortunately common among those who speed train, and landing too hard during sprints can be the culprit. In order to prevent stress fractures, it’s important to focus on your form. Don’t allow your heels to slam down after every sprint. Instead, focus on gently slowing to a recovery pace. You can also avoid stress fractures by enjoying a balanced, bone-healthy diet. Eating foods full of Calcium and Vitamin D leads to stronger bones and lower risk of fracture.