December 17, 2020 5 min read

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    Before we jump into it, let me say a few words from one runner to another: I know that when the physiotherapist or the doctor says, “You need to take some time off,” most of us runners...simply don’t. We think to ourselves, “ Oh I’ll just do the trails rather than pavement,” or “A new pair of sneakers will do the trick”.

    Not running as a runner is often as difficult (or sometimes more difficult) than the longest run of the year. The struggle is in our heads as much as it is in the body's need for proper rest and recovery. However, it's often hard to stomach, which makes other lifestyle factors like nutrition, sleep, and proper equipment even more crucial.

    The run-through on running injuries

    Running can be addictive; it's like your PRs are constantly dangling in front of you, or you get lost in the moment and end up coming home with more pain than when you left. Mentally, you may be constantly on the run, not looking back, but it takes some time for your body to catch up. Repeated motions and heavy impact on your knees and ankles can cause a whole host of injuries ranging in severity. Common running injuries include:

    • Blisters caused by your shoes and socks constantly rubbing against the skin.
    • Shin splints are common in runners with flat feet. They can also be brought on by overexertion by pushing your runs too long or running more often.
    • Ankle sprains are a type of tearing or stretching of the ligaments that can be caused by uneven pavement or rolling the ankle inward.
    • Muscle pulls of the groin and calf are fairly common and can often occur during stretching.
    • Achilles tendinopathy (AKA tendinitis) is when the Achilles tendon becomes inflamed and causes pain and discomfort, especially when running.
    • Runner's knee is knee pain that is centered primarily around the kneecap and usually occurs when the kneecap is out of alignment
    • Stress fractures are small cracks in the bone, typically in the shins and feet of runners. This requires you to stay off your feet and rest in order to recover. Signs of a stress fracture include less energy availability, lower body weight, low bone mineral density, and in women, irregular or delayed periods.
    • Plantar fasciitis causes pain in the heel and foot due to inflammation of the plantar fascia tissue.

    Joint pain can get in the way of your health goals and PRs. Collagen supplementation may help you to minimize your recovery time so you can get back to doing what you love while looking out for your joint health before, after, and during your runs.

    What is this collagen stuff, anyway?

    Collagen is a structural protein that acts as a building block for the bones, tendons, muscles, skin, and other connective tissues throughout the body. It is the most abundant protein in the human body and acts as the glue that holds us all together. Collagen synthesis occurs naturally in the body and is on the incline up until about 20 years old.

    When collagen levels are high, we look and feel our youngest; the joints are flexible, our guts are healthy and strong, and our skin is firm and wrinkle-free. After the age of 20 or so, our levels of collagen production start to steadily decline throughout our lives, with a steep drop-off in women after menopause. It is partially responsible for age-related joint pain, loss of skin elasticity, wrinkles, and brittleness of the hair and nails.

    Collagen proteins are composed of amino acids glycine, proline, hydroxyproline, and arginine. Consuming more of these amino acids, either through dietary supplementation or collagen supplements, stimulates our bodies to produce even more collagen to restore our collagen levels and keep the body functioning at 100%. It can help to speed up recovery times through wound healing and repairing the tissues and soft tissues that can become torn and damaged from running injuries.

    Collagen and your running plan

    Whether you're looking to recover from a running injury or want to avoid them altogether, collagen supplements can help! Collagen can be used to help manage many different running injuries that affect the bones, ligaments, and muscles.

    One study conducted on athletes concluded that athletes who had daily collagen supplementation experienced less joint pain during activity and while at rest compared to the placebo. This effect may extend to running injuries that affect the joints such as ankle sprains.

    Another recent study found that specific collagen peptides (collagen that has been broken down to its smallest, most absorbable form) also helped to reduce inflammation of the joints by stimulating further collagen production in the cartilage and joints.

    Collagen is also commonly used in sports nutrition to increase performance and lean muscle mass in the calves, glutes, and hamstrings. One study suggested that the result of increased muscle mass could be due to stimulating the production of other muscle-building proteins like creatine which can lead to muscle growth even after exercise. AKA, it's putting in the work for you even as you rest!

    The impact of stress fractures may also be minimized or avoided altogether via collagen supplements. Collagen plays a critical role in bone strength and managing bone deterioration. This is especially true for women and those with conditions that affect bone mass and bone mineral density like osteoporosis.

    Collagen supplements may also encourage weight loss by promoting greater appetite and satiety, which can also help decrease the strain that is placed on your body during exercise.

    The bottom line

    Running injuries and joint pain get in the way of exercise and can lead to serious, sometimes permanent damage. Collagen is a powerful protein that can help to get you up and running again, but it can't do it on its own. The majority of running injuries are caused by overexertion and improper form. Without first analyzing how you're running, where you're running, what you're wearing, etc., you're not setting yourself up for your best performance and endurance. Running coaches can help analyze your running plan and take into consideration your specific barriers, like previous injuries or other health issues.

    Eating a diet of vitamin-rich whole foods can also help you take a more holistic approach to better runs and better overall health. Fill your table with bone broth, gelatin, and other collagen-rich foods paired with collagen-boosting ingredients to get you started. High-quality collagen supplements free of artificial ingredients, GMOs, or flavorings make it easy to incorporate into your everyday meals without skipping a beat! Try adding a scoop to your pre-run smoothie, snack, or with your dinner to prepare for the next day's run.

    Make sure to choose supplements that are the easiest for your body to absorb, such as Premium Hydrolyzed Marine Collagen or liposomal vitamin C. You can also pair these supplements with Liposomal Vitamin C and Glutathione to encourage your body to produce even more collagen and assist with inflammation and muscle soreness. Most importantly, do not push into pain. Instead, take note of it, give yourself time to rest, and make a gradual holistic plan to overcome it.

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