As someone who works with a lot of runners, injury can often be a part of our conversations. In fact, most often, the first contact someone makes with me is because they’ve suffered an injury and they want to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Nate Helming from The Run Experience has coined the term ‘Survival plans’ to describe all the training plans you can get online for free.
He calls them this because often all they do is allow the runner to ‘survive’ until race day, without much chance of meeting their full potential, because they remain injury prone and so tight in their hips and calves that they can’t run well. These ‘survival’ plans very rarely emphasise strength or mobility work effectively, and as such, the runner will de-prioritise these parts of training.
With my new customers, they’ll often take on the strength work, as the benefits are almost immediately noticed, BUT, when they feel time scarcity, unfortunately, this is the first part to go. Those who prioritse the strength work, more often than not get better results than those who don’t. See Meera’s blog from a few weeks ago for proof.
Similarly, mobility work, including dynamic stretching pre-run, foam rolling regularly, and dedicated mobility training sessions often happen diligently to begin with but are then forgotten as the injury pain goes away, and they are able to run again. This is unfortunate, because it is daily practice to make you a better runner, and not just running that will lead to more consistent and injury free running. This is exactly what my Running Technique Workshop is all about. The idea is to fix the runner, and not some external factor.
The thing is, rehabilitating an injury takes time. And most often, injuries occur when a runner is so desperate to fit in the miles, that everything else they were sensibly doing at the start of a training cycle (strength work, mobility work, optimising nutrition), gets dropped. This can be very frustrating for the runner. ‘But I foam rolled 6 weeks ago, why did this happen?’, and the coach ‘Have you been foam rolling 10 minutes a day like I recommended? WOW your quads are tight!’,
One of the requirements of being a REPs Personal Trainer in the UK, and one I’m very proud of is the requirement for Continuing Professional Development (CPD). Like in the fields of medicine or accountancy, we are required to keep our knowledge up to date and gain 20 new CPD points every 2 years. Since I love to learn, this isn’t much of a problem for me, but the courses do cost money and are almost never held in my home town, so there’s a significant time and money element associated with them. As such, I have to be pretty discerning about the courses I choose to do. I choose courses that are relevant to my customers, and don’t just do them to tick this box/ meet this requirement.
Back in November, I took part in a course on Kinesiology Taping taught by RockTape, which afterward qualified me to be a RockDoc. You may have seen Rock Tape before – its used quite a lot on elite athletes, and perhaps first became familiar to a lot of us during the London 2012 olympics. In fact it was used on me a few weeks before the Olympics started when I had a knee injury caused by doing an interval session the day after I had been crashed into go-karting.
Since I didn’t visibly bruise, I didn’t realise the go-karting crash was a problem, and then after those intervals my knee swelled up to the size of a balloon. My physio at the time used Rocktape on me first to help my knee injury, and then to cue appropriate movement as ‘my glutes weren’t firing’ (see article all about the glutes). The tape seemed to work really well for me. It certainly reduced the swelling. But unfortunately, since I wasn’t doing any real strength/ mobility work, £500 worth of physiotherapy didn’t get me back to running regularly pain free. The tape would be enough for training, but when I didn’t have the tape on, I couldn’t move pain free, and since I didn’t know how to apply it and I couldn’t afford to keep going back to the physio, I kind of gave up for a while. It was probably 8 months after that go-karting crash, when I took matters into my own hands, learning about the importance of strength and mobility, that I finally got back into running regularly and without pain or swelling.
Because of this experience I’ve always been curious about RockTape. My experience of it is that it could help reduce pain, and also help me get back to training quickly, but a piece of tape alone is not going to solve a movement problem on its own. Or is it?
As someone with quite an academic background, my first port of call when researching this article was all the journal articles recommended in the RockTape training that support its use. I read the abstracts, not the full articles, but they all seemed to be based on the wrong type of people – healthy adults, rather than injured runners. (How do you get a bunch of runners injured in the same way for the sake of a scientific study – a bit unethical really, isn’t it?). And in fact, the teachers on the seminar taught us that the use of RockTape in sport is based on PRACTISE BASED EVIDENCE, and not evidence based practise. Put simply – “we’ve tried a variety of applications, people have told us it helped them, so we try them again on similar problems, and it seems to work.”.
For some people, this won’t be enough, and they will be skeptical, rightly so if they’ve been brought up in the scientific method, but what I would say is try it and see. If its a placebo, so what? I will still use it and recommend it to my clients, because, you know what, there are so many psychological barriers to return to movement after someone has been injured, that if a piece of tape can help them overcome that barrier and it is all in their head, isn’t that worth it?!?
This next section is taken Verbatim from the RockTape UK Website:
What does it do?
The exact mechanisms and pathways through which kinesiology tape works remains uncertain and a matter of debate. See our ‘What is ROCKTAPE’ section for more details. ROCKTAPE is commonly used by athletes and health professionals to help with a wide variety of musculo-skeletal and sporting injuries and to achieve the following:
• Reduce swelling, pain and tightness and stiffness.
• Delay onset of muscle fatigue and cramp
How does it work?
When applied properly, ROCKTAPE lifts the skin away from the muscle, which promotes positive changes in the bodies fluid, mechanical and neurological systems. Commonly people wearing Rocktape report less pain, swelling and tightness, greater awareness of the area and later onset of fatigue.
If you are unfortunate and pick up an injury, I always recommend first getting a massage with a sports injury specialist like Dan, and then within 24-48 hours of that treatment having a RockTape application by a qualified RockDoc, like me. The taping will be helpful for reducing pain without that massage treatment, but it’ll be more effective, if you’ve had some work on mobilising the surrounding tissues that may have tightened up.
After your first massage treatment, you may find you can return to running in a matter of days with the help of the RockTape. – A LOT better than the probably 2 weeks rest + ibuprofen recommendation you might get if you follow a different route.
Ideally, you will be able to move well without the tape, but it is very useful for cueing correct movement, AND, if you have an important work out coming up – like a race, or a key workout ahead of your race for example, then the tape can help you to get through that by making sure you don’t slip into those injury producing patterns of movement once you get tired.
Lastly, if you do have any injury fear, or injury related pain when you are a few days out from your A-Race, then a bit of tape might just help you get through that important event pain free. And, I won’t talk too much about this, but because the tape can help delay fatigue in your muscles, depending on how its applied, it may also help improve performance.
If you want to find out more about RockTape why not come along to the RockTape Stand at the London Marathon Expo, where they will be offering free taping if you purchase a roll of tape. I’ll be there on the Friday and Saturday as a RockDoc, so come and say hi, and if you need it, I can tape you up too!
And if you want to find out about taping in Colchester, just use the Contact me form.
If you want to train to be a better runner, rather than following yet another ‘survival plan’, then fill in the form here to let me know you’re interested.
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Angela Isherwood is the founder of I Run Success
She is a REPs Level 3 Personal Trainer, a Run England Running coach, and a multiple marathon runner. She is a London Marathon Good for Age runner, a Boston Marathon Qualifier, a parkrun Run Director and Trainer for Goodgym Colchester.