It is no secret that all military training, from boot camp to specialised skills training and beyond, is hard on your body. Many people experience injuries – sometimes life-changing ones – while they are participating in training.
Some of the most common injuries that occur during military training are tibial bone stress reaction (shin splints), patellofemoral syndrome (runner’s knee), iliotibial band syndrome, and stress fractures.
To avoid these injuries (and others), and see the greatest amount of improvement during your training, be sure to keep these tips in mind.
Preventing Shin Splints
- Shoot for a mid-foot strike – heel striking and toe running both can lead to shin splints.
- Strengthen your calves with toe raises.
- Strengthen your hips to help you avoid overpronating (feet rolling in as you run).
- Stretch your calves regularly and roll them out with a foam roller – you can roll your shins, too.
- Consider wearing orthotics for extra arch and ankle support.
Preventing Patellofemoral Syndrome
As with shin splints, patellofemoral syndrome – pain in the front of the knee – is also often the result of high-mileage running.
If you are running on your own outside of training, make sure you are not increasing your mileage too quickly – this is the most common cause of patellofemoral syndrome.
Some other things you can do to prevent knee pain include:
- Strengthen the quadriceps with squats, seated leg lifts, and other resistance exercises to improve your patellar tracking.
- Stretch your hamstrings and calves regularly and strengthen the hips to avoid over-pronating.
- Supplement running whenever possible with cycling to strengthen the legs without putting additional stress on the knees.
Preventing Iliotibial Band Syndrome
Iliotibial band syndrome occurs when the ligament that runs on the outside of the leg from the hip to the knee becomes inflamed. Running, jumping, and other weight-bearing exercises can all cause iliotibial band syndrome.
To avoid the inflammation and pain that comes with iliotibial band syndrome, make sure you are warming up properly before your runs. You can also add orthotics to give you extra support.
Strengthening the hips with lying leg abductions, hip thrusts, and banded side shuffles can be helpful, too.
Single-leg exercises like pistol squats and Bulgarian split squats are also good exercises. They will help you correct muscle imbalances and improve your patellar tracking.
Preventing Stress Fractures
One of the best things you can do to prevent stress fractures is to make sure your bones are strong and healthy.
Ensure you are getting a sufficient amount of vitamin D and calcium – both are needed for sufficient bone health. Try to get these nutrients from whole foods like full-fat dairy, dark leafy greens, egg yolks, and fatty fish as much as possible.
In addition to improving your diet, practicing good form in all exercises – especially running – and cross-training will also help you avoid stress fractures.
More Injury Prevention Tips
These extra prevention tips will help you avoid these common injuries, as well as others that can occur from the stress of training:
- Wear a brace to help support previously injured joints – a shoulder brace can be used for the prevention of rotator cuff injuries and a knee brace may help prevent patellofemoral syndrome.
- Practice a dynamic stretching programme before every training session to prime the muscles for the upcoming tasks.
- Improve your proprioception – this will help you land better and avoid ankle and hip injuries when jumping or landing.
- Keep your soft tissues in good shape with foam rolling and stretching.
- Stay hydrated – dehydration can lead to a decrease in performance and an increase in injury risk.
- Start training early – do not wait until a couple weeks before basic training to prioritise getting in shape.
Injuries are common during military training, but they are not inevitable. Follow these prevention tips and you will increase your chances of being able to make it through training without getting hurt or sidelined!