Keeping your body injury-free and moving well are the keys to running, but this may seem like a magic potion, and runners are still searching for the recipe.
We recently caught up with Team England and British Athletics physio Sarah Connors to learn more about her journey into supporting elite athletes and runners, and her top tips to keep you motivated and running well.
Journey into the sport
Sarah’s journey into the world of elite athletics began over 30 years ago at the World Student Games in Sheffield.
“I was the host physio at the 1991 World Student Games where I met some of the British multi-event athletes. I went on to work at a sports injury clinic in Stoke and did a lot of travelling working with the national multi-event team when representing their country.”
“I then went on to support the head physio for British Athletics and working within the British team was exciting and inspiring. I travelled from 1994-2004 with some of the best British sprinters. When I had my third child, work and travel was challenging alongside family life and so I worked within a private practice and supported the English Institute of Sport team based at the Alexander Stadium.”
Fast forward and being part of the magical home Games
With a wealth of experience, Sarah was the perfect candidate to be the medical lead at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
“It (Birmingham 2022) was such an exceptional experience. Before Birmingham, I supported the European U23 team in Tallin on behalf of British Athletics. I continue to now work with British Athletics and support with the World Class Programme and Talent Pathway athletes in Loughborough each week alongside supporting the senior talent programme athletes based at Loughborough for England.”
“Before their session, I will check their bodies to make sure they are in good working order, especially important when working with speed and power athletes. I also do soft tissue work with the athletes, collaborating with strength and conditioning coaches to offer any functional based exercises to keep their bodies working well.
“I provide support during warm weather training camps and have travelled to Florida, Portugal and South Africa alongside the British and English teams.”
Injury prevention and keeping the body healthy
Whether you are a newbie to running, or an elite athlete everyone who runs will practice the same basic movement, just at different paces and to different intensities. Keeping injury-free and mitigating risk are important to all runners, and here are top tips from Sarah to help keep you moving and enjoying running:
- Undertake an effective warm-up
Make sure your muscles are moving nicely. Try dynamic drills, high knees, and balance exercises to help your running form and activate your core muscles that are essential to running. Get your body moving and your blood pumping!
- Understand your body
If you know when your body is tight, you will know when you need to do a little more stretching. I would recommend you stretch before going along to your session. If you start your run with muscles or joints which are tight, they will only get more so when running. Running is a repetitive and over-use biomedical sport which means that if something starts tight, it may loosen when running but it will end up tighter after you finish the exercise.
- Don’t ignore parts of your body
The thorax and upper back are often areas neglected by runners, but it is one of the centres of rotation for running. Make sure you do rotation work to get it moving during your warm-up.
- Buy a foam roller or tennis ball
Using these are a cost efficient and effective method to release joints and soft tissue.
- Get your foundations right, don’t just run!
Even if you just do a few basic bodyweight exercises like squats, lunges, calf raises, single knee bends, these will be a massive addition to your training.
- Vary your route
Don’t just do all your running on tarmac, make use of canal paths, grass, or trails. Climbing over stiles and running through muddy fields is great strength work. It also slows you down and uses different muscles especially the core stability muscles.
- Make sure you have suitable running shoes
They shouldn’t be too old and shouldn’t twist too much. Make sure you have the correct support for your feet.
Keeping motivated all year round
We are now in spring and can sense summer is around the corner however keeping motivated all year round can be a challenge. For Sarah, joining her local club and making friends has made her running journey much more enjoyable.
“Find yourself a running buddy and you will get sucked in! If you are running with someone else whether it is your dog, best friend, family, or your club you are chatting away the miles and have a cup of coffee after. It becomes much more than just running, it is enjoyable and engaging.
“My running buddy is currently trying to persuade me to keep training for the marathon we have signed up to watch this space to see what happens there!
“The other best way to get the most out of your running is to get yourself a coach. Find a local running club – they will have sessions on set days. Having more varied sessions and a running routine will help you to improve.”
Interview and report by Lucy Connors