We walk, drive, bus or train the same route to get to work, we pick up “the usual” coffee en- route, we arrive to work at the same time every day, sit at the same desk, take our breaks and lunch at the same time every day with or without the same people and usually in the same spot. Most of us do the same things every day, we crave and embrace routines, and they are comforting. While routine is tremendously beneficial for organizing all the areas in your life, it does so with it a level of boredom and monotony
A routine is something that is done so often that it is automatic, we don’t have to think about it anymore. It’s something that’s moulded into our lives, it creates structure and order and a feeling of calm. But doing the same things every day creates a feeling of frustration and stagnation, even if the tolerance for routine is quite high. It may be worth getting rid of some of these routines, and replacing them with experiences that can really enhance the areas of life that have become too ordinary and boring. But remember not all routines are bad – brushing teeth, eating breakfast are good healthy routines and for me a nice morning coffee is lovely routine that I have no intention of changing. But running too can become too habitual, It can grow to be overly repetitive, and repetitive training causes recurring stress and as a result – injuries. The reality is the sport that we enjoy is very repetitive; It’s the same movement a thousand – or tens of thousands – of times, with the result that the risk of overuse injuries skyrockets. To make it worse: most recreational runners wear the same shoes, run at the same pace over the same distance on the same routes every day – we can be slow to vary or change our routine. All of these factors increases the stresses experienced by the body when running, but all of these risks can be manipulated.
Introducing more variety into training can and reduce the stress of repetition. Wearing two to three pairs of running shoes in rotation throughout the week can lower your risk of injury (Malisoux et al., 2015). Multiple-shoe wearers may have a 39% lower risk of injury than the single-shoe wearers. It is thought that different shoes may distribute the impact forces of running differently, thereby lessening the strain on any given tissue and preventing lower limb fatigue and injury. Again Supporting this idea of reducing injury risk by varying tissue loads, is the finding that runners who cross-train have a lower incidence of injury (Malisoux et al., 2015).
Apparently running on the grass is better than running on hard roads, because softer ground protects the body from injuries……. Or does it? Whilst there is evidence that running on harder surfaces increases the impact force when the foot hits the ground (Kerdok et al., 2002), there are no comprehensive scientific studies that show a link between the hardness of a surface athletes train on and injury rates (Marti et al., 1988; Taunton et al., 2003; van Gent et al., 2007) Road running has long been vilified, and described as brutal, resulting in joggers being left on the scrap heap requiring joint replacements early in life. So why do so many think a soft surface is more forgiving on limbs. Is it another example of trusting the accepted norm rather than questioning conventional wisdom? It seems obvious that the impact of running on hard concrete is greater than running on grass, but why are injury rates not affected? The reason has been proven time and time again, the body automatically adapts to changes in running surface. Rapid adjustment in leg stiffness facilitates the smooth transition between surfaces of different firmness. The body anticipates the stiffness of the running surface and adjusts how strongly the leg muscles contract in preparation for impact. This allows the body to pre-tune the legs differently when stepping from concrete onto grass. Strangely when running on a hard surface the legs are less stiff than they are on a soft surface (Ferris et al., 1999). Both high and low leg stiffness caused by running on the different surfaces has been linked to increasing the risk of injury (Nigg, 2001; Butler et al., 2003). So with no evidence that running on softer surfaces prevents injuries, Is it possible that the issue isn’t the hardness of the surface but rather the unremitting “same-ness” of the surface? Most recreational runners run on and paved paths and roads. But on unvarying surfaces, the body is subjected to exactly the same forces with every strike of the foot. The biomechanics of each step are identical, meaning that the same muscles and tissues are under pressure – possibly leading to injury.
So if running paved hill repeats in your asics yesterday caused pain in your foot? Then today wear a different shoe and run on trails, keeping the terrain flat. These subtle differences may change how the foot strikes the ground, how the impact is distributed through your legs and therefore the running pattern. Often these small variations are all that is needed to avoid a little niggle from developing into a serious injury. I will continue the routine of buying a nice morning coffee, because I enjoy it. But I will always look out for new shops and types of coffee, because variety is the spice of life!
Butler RJ, Crowell HP, 3rd & Davis IM. (2003). Lower extremity stiffness: implications for performance and injury. Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon) 18, 511-517.
Ferris DP, Liang K & Farley CT. (1999). Runners adjust leg stiffness for their first step on a new running surface. J Biomech 32, 787-794.
Kerdok AE, Biewener AA, McMahon TA, Weyand PG & Herr HM. (2002). Energetics and mechanics of human running on surfaces of different stiffnesses. J Appl Physiol (1985) 92, 469-478.
Malisoux L, Ramesh J, Mann R, Seil R, Urhausen A & Theisen D. (2015). Can parallel use of different running shoes decrease running-related injury risk? Scand J Med Sci Sports 25, 110-115.
Marti B, Vader JP, Minder CE & Abelin T. (1988). On the epidemiology of running injuries. The 1984 Bern Grand-Prix study. Am J Sports Med 16, 285-294.
Nigg BM. (2001). The role of impact forces and foot pronation: a new paradigm. Clin J Sport Med 11, 2-9.
Taunton JE, Ryan MB, Clement DB, McKenzie DC, Lloyd-Smith DR & Zumbo BD. (2003). A prospective study of running injuries: the Vancouver Sun Run “In Training” clinics. Br J Sports Med 37, 239-244.
van Gent RN, Siem D, van Middelkoop M, van Os AG, Bierma-Zeinstra SM & Koes BW. (2007). Incidence and determinants of lower extremity running injuries in long distance runners: a systematic review. Br J Sports Med 41, 469-480; discussion 480.