Running has become a popular method of exercise in today’s society. It can be a community building activity, a personal challenge, and most importantly, a great workout. It’s a sport that everyone can participate in; you just need a good pair of shoes and a little motivation.
With that being said, running can be extremely hard on your body, especially when you’re just starting. We are finding that injuries among runners are very common.
Anyone can get hurt running and suffer injuries like shin splints or rolled ankles, but we have some tips to help prevent injury when you go for a run:
Don’t Do Too Much Too Fast
Many beginning runners tend to push their limits once they start making progress. Although this is a great way to challenge yourself, it’s important to understand that your body has a threshold that, when exceeded, results in injury.
To avoid injury, begin by tracking your mileage on both a daily and weekly basis. If you’re new to long-distance running, then you should start your weekly mileage off pretty low.
As you improve, you can gradually increase your weekly mileage. The census in the running community is to not increase your mileage more than 10% on a weekly basis. For many runners—specifically new runners—even 10% may be too high of a jump.
It’s the same reason why it’s recommended that you start as early as possible for a distance race, whether it’s a 10k, a half marathon, or a marathon.
Could you complete a half marathon in two weeks? Maybe, but it would take a huge toll on your body and put you at risk of injury, so it probably wouldn’t be worth it.
A recent study showed that runners who only increased their mileage by 3% a weekhad a much higher rate of success in their upcoming races than runners who ramped up their mileage quicker.
So where should you start?
As a new runner, start with short runs and accumulate miles throughout the week. It’s very important that you know how far you’ve been running, so download an app on your phone like “Map My Run” to track your distance. As you gradually increase your miles, you will have to start listening to your body. If you’re feeling good running 20 miles per week, but begin to have pain and discomfort when you increase to 23 miles, you should dial it back to 20 per week, and then increase more gradually.
Don’t Run Through Significant Pain
As runners, we know that a huge part of this sport is discomfort. After a long run, your feet and legs are likely to be sore. But if you start experiencing a significant pain or discomfort while you’re running, consider taking a break.
One of the most difficult things to convince a runner of doing is taking a break. However, this can save you from a severe injury. Few running injuries are acute or traumatic, aside from the occasional rolled ankle. Far more often, runners “tough it out” and ignore the pain or discomfort.
This can cause a cumulative injury cycle. This means an injury will become worse, and a more significant problem, if you continue to stress it by running. If symptoms are minor, sometimes all it takes is an extra day off for the body to recover.
This is important because if you have an injury, it is very common for your body to adapt by altering your gait (running pattern). This may lead you to be less efficient, develop bad habits or in a worst-case scenario cause an injury elsewhere in your body.
Remember, everything is connected, so if you are running with a limp the biomechanical stresses will be placed on a different part of your body. Give your body a chance to recover.
Have a medical professional look at any injury you feel is nagging. It’s much better to have an injury taken care of with a couple of sessions of treatment rather than letting it persist and having to deal with it when it is much more serious, and your recovery time is extended.
Stay Aware of Your Cadence (Stride Length)
You may not think much about your running besides putting one foot in front of the other. However, if you have consistent pain in your shins or recurring lower leg injuries, the way you’re running may not be right for you.
New research has shown that when you take a longer stride as you run, the ground reaction force on your legs will be increased. This increased force can lead to more injuries and microtraumas that can lead to chronic injuries and discomfort.
If you think this is interfering with your ability to run pain-free, then try taking shorter runs and taking smaller steps while you run. To maintain the same pace as before, your legs will have to move faster, but you may sustain less injury.
It may take time to relearn your running pattern. With some regular training, you should be able to make the transition.
Warm Up and Get Flexible
It’s essential to warm up appropriately, just like any other sport. An effective way to warm up your muscles for a run is to perform a dynamic warm-up. This just means that you warm up while moving instead of the traditional static stretches.
Some great dynamic exercises to perform before running are:
- Forward Lunges
- Side Lunges
- Body Weight Squats
- High Knee Walking
- Single Leg Deadlifts
These simple exercises will get blood following through your muscles and prepare you for your workout.
You have to let your muscles recover after your run. To do this, it’s important to perform some stretching and foam rolling. You can do any of your favorite stretches, just intend to spend at least 15-20 minutes stretching.
You don’t need to spend a lot of time foam rolling each region. Some people go overboard, but you only need to roll out one spot for 1-2 minutes before moving onto the next.
A foam roller is a great tool to target knots and trigger points that may have developed during your workout.
If you have gone on an extended run (15 miles+), allow your body to cool down and recover before stretching. When you are running longer distances, your muscles will develop micro muscle tears which can be further injured if you stress the tissues (like with a stretch) immediately after the run. Give yourself a couple of hours and make sure you stretch before the end of the day.
Some Quick Tips…
Don’t forget to stay hydrated. Water is always essential, but when training regularly, your body requires even more water than you might think.
Fuel your body with nutrients: As you train, you’ll be burning a lot of calories. Remember to replace them with a healthy diet that includes healthy fats, fruits, vegetables, and plenty of protein to aid in your recovery.
Consider adding strength training to your routine. A diverse workout plan is essential to safe training. Just because you’re training for cardio, doesn’t mean you can neglect the weight room. The stronger you are, the easier it is to prevent injuries. You can even use the weight room to target common weak muscles like the glute medius, hamstrings, etc. which can help you prevent injuries.
REST. REST. REST. Maintain a gradual increase in your mileage. But remember, your body needs time to recover. You can have an active rest day where you go for a walk or a casual swim, but give your body a break while training, so it can recover and help you perform to the best of your ability.
Consider visiting a sports recovery center such as Health Fit Sports Recovery. As your training gets more intense and recovery becomes more difficult, consider trying Normatec compression boots or whole-body cryotherapy. These are two tools that have been shown to help athletes’ recovery during training quicker and help them reach their maximum performance.
These are just a starting point to help you prevent injury while running. There are plenty of other ways out there to avoid injury while training. Incorporate as many of the strategies as you can into your routine, and you’ll be running pain-free in no time!If you have a running injury that’s been bothering you, call today to schedule an appointment with Dr. Andrew Yockey at Prebish Chiropractic Centre!