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Ask an Exercise Physiologist: Parkrun alternatives and weak ankles

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We’re here to help. Another week of great questions!

Ask an EP is here to help with all your health and wellness questions and challenges: Lifestyle. Wellness. Pain. Health.

Do you have a burning health and wellness question?

Now is your chance to ask. Every week we will pick a couple of questions, and help you solve your query. If we share our problems, we are more likely to solve them.

I have my wonderful work colleague, Kayla answering a question this week too. Let’s get started:

I’d like to start parkrun. I’m a large frame and I get injured very easily. Any tips to avoid another injury?

– Katherine, 44

We’re lucky to live in Canberra, as we’re the only location trialling parkrun. For those who don’t know what ‘parkrun’ is, it’s a community-based event held in parks all over the world, which involves a 5 kilometre timed run (you can walk too!), all organised by volunteers and the local community.

Here are a few tips for you for parkrun:

  • Have supportive footwear. It’s mostly on pavement, so the more cushioning you have the better! At Athletes Foot they test your foot type and recommend the shoe for your individual foot. Alternatively, you could see a local podiatrist if you need extra help to avoid lower limb injuries.
  • Have a training plan—try to fit in two other walks/talks (run/walks) during the week, in between parkrun. Allow your body to adapt to the new load (slow and steady).
  • Think long term. Don’t go out too hard! You want to enjoy the process , choosing a new exercise routine is all about consistency, enjoyment and the long-term training effects. I’d recommend starting at the back, and walk/jogging the first few parkruns. If your body recovers well enough, then great—you can start picking up the pace a little.
  • Take a friend. Have a coffee. Make it a regular, fun, social ritual that creates lifelong healthy patterns!! Allow your body to gradually adapt to the new load.
  • Consult an allied health professional to give you an injury prevention running program. A program that takes you 10mins, 3-4 times a week will do the trick. Ask for stability, mobility and strengthening exercises, and get them to assess your gait! It’s the little plans you put in place which will have long term physiological gains!!

See you out in the local park!

Kirra

Hello. I love playing netball. I train twice a week and play a game once a week. I have very stiff ankles. My left is worse, and I often sprain my left ankle during games (never in training though). Do you have any suggestions for me?

— Angela, 25

To answer this question, I enlisted the help of fellow Exercise Physiologist and keen netballer, Kayla Bonney.

Hi Angela!

I am so happy to receive a question from a fellow netball lover and I too know the annoying aspect of having ‘dodgy’ netball ankles!

Netball is a super fun and dynamic sport but unfortunately, it is notorious for ankle injuries. The current statistic for recurrent sprain after initial injury is around 75%!

This can lead to ‘chronic ankle instability’ due to the stretching of the ligament structures in the ankle, which is what you probably experience during your gameplay. The injury is more likely to occur in match play as it is more unpredictable, and you are likely working at a higher intensity too.

In terms of improving this, I have compiled my top five tips:

  • It is important to start with basic strengthening exercises and re-establishing stability through the ankle/s. I would suggest starting with some TheraBand and body weight strengthening exercises targeting all muscles of the lower limbs (such as crab walks, calf raises, squats, balancing and lunges). Start with double leg and progress to single leg!
  • Combine these static exercises with dynamic and uncontrolled movements just as your body would undertake in a game such as plyometric exercises (jumps, landings, bounds etc). You can even find a partner and make it game specific with a ball or an uneven surface (i.e. a wobble board)
  • To assist in stiffness experienced, trial doing daily calf, hamstring, quad stretches. You could also trial some myofascial release in the form of trigger balling and foam rolling!
  • In the meantime, you could trial strapping your ankle or wearing a protective ankle brace during games to avoid further injury and missed game time whilst you work on strengthening and stabilising!
  • Your post-game and training recovery are also important! Make sure you are taking care of yourself with hot/cold showers, icing as needed if the ankle is sore and doing your post-game stretches.

All the best and I look forward to seeing you on the court sometime!

— Kayla Bonney

Great questions everyone. I’ll answer more next week.

Want to ask your own question?

We are all better together! Do you have a burning health and wellness question?

Fill out our Google Form, or email us your health and wellbeing questions, to either: editor@hercanberra.com.au or kirra@capitalhydrotherapy.com.au.

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