I had an interesting conversation with Dr. Johnston from Mountain Orthopedics the other day. We were talking about running injuries and he shared some interesting thoughts. The bottom line is, he is a very firm believer in variety. He feels the majority of running injuries he treats could be prevented if people didn’t always run the same route, didn’t always run on the same surface, didn’t always run the same direction (against traffic), didn’t always run in the same pair of shoes, etc. He feels every person should have at least two pair of shoes they alternate at all times. If you are one of those people who have found one shoe or one brand that works best for you, you are setting yourself up for injury. If you have found one or two routes you like to run, try changing it up. Find a new route or at the very least run the route backwards every once in a while. He feels the more variety you subject yourself to, the better your body will be able to adapt and the stronger your joint stabilizers will be.
I have looked up some research since this conversation to see if there is any support for his thoughts. Although there does not seem to be any research that specifically studied his hypothesis, there is some research that suggests he is right and some that could make the argument in the contrary. Specifically there was an article I found suggesting running surface did not increase or decrease your chance of injury. Whenever I find conflicting research on topics I am left to just make a clinical judgement. In my opinion, Dr. Johnston is probably right but I would take his concept of variety one step further. If you are an avid runner, or just a recreational runner, you should not only have variety wtih your running and running equipment, but you should probably consider cross training.
I firmly believe that if you do different workouts, other than just running, throughout your week, you will be less likely to sustain an injury. For me personally, I like playing sports recreationally; which is a great work-out. I realize not everybody likes pick-up basketball or flag football. For those who don’t, try biking, swimming, or even jump roping. During the winter months, when the weather does not permit running outdoors, I jump rope. It is a fantastic workout. You can get a light weight speed rope to work on foot speed and cardio, or you can get a weighted rope for a good cardio workout with a little weight training as well.
The bottom line is if you get a little more variety with your workouts, you will not experience burnout and you likely will not be dealing with injuries as often.