7 Quick Tips to Prevent Injuries

Being an injured runner is probably one of the worst imaginable things. Being side lined from the sport you love is awful, especially when you are working towards a big, important goal. Probably either you or another runner you know has been injured. It is not uncommon to suffer one injury or another in your running journey. You are putting your body through a lot of stress constantly that it may or may not be used to and you need to be mindful of the impact running can have on your body.

Many injuries however can be prevented. I know a lot of runners who have been running for years, over countless miles, who have not suffered an injury yet and hopefully never will. You just have to do things right and take the time to do some key things and you will hopefully decrease your risk of getting injured.

1. Improve and maintain your flexibility

Admit it, you know you do not stretch nearly enough. And if you are, you could probably stretch more! Daily stretching is essential to improve and maintain flexibility, improve performance and prevent injuries. Muscles tighten up from repetitive use and strain, and if you continue to run without allowing them to lengthen, the risk of injury increases. Stretching before your run helps warm up your muscles and prepares them to work. Stretching after a run helps to lengthen the muscles that have tightened up after and during the run. Chances are after a long run your legs feel tight and stiff. Even a quick stretch is better than no stretch at all. IT band syndrome is almost always caused by tight hamstrings, glutes or hips. IT band syndrome can often be misdiagnosed as knee problems, which gives running a bad rep for causing knee issues. Without stretching it can cause the IT band to become tight, causing severe pain to the outside of the knee. Another commonly tight area for runners is the hip flexors, the muscle that sits over top of the top of the hip joint. It is so important to loosen up your hip joints and associated muscles so that you do not add extra strain on your joints. Stretching allows your flexibility to improve which can help lengthen your stride.

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2. Include strength training in your running program

Strength training is an imperative part of being a runner. It helps strengthen muscles, reduces muscular fatigue and helps prevent injuries. Core strength should never be overlooked as it is crucial in keeping good form and posture while running. Weight lifting, plyometrics and hill running are all effective methods of increasing strength. Your muscles will become stronger without the impact of running which builds them in different ways. Cross-training helps to maintain your aerobic fitness while avoiding excessive impact forces from too much running.

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3. Stay hydrated

Staying hydrated before, during and after running is key. Make a habit of keeping a water bottle on you at all times so that even when you are not running you are staying hydrated. Bring water with you for anything longer than an hour in length so that you don’t dehydrate your muscles.

4. Warm up and cool down before and after all runs and races

Include a warm up and cool down period. A warm up of 5-10 minutes helps to flush out lactic acid build-up in muscles and prevents delayed muscle soreness. Start each run with a gradual warm up before you settle into your set pace. After your run finish with a good 5 minute either walk or jog to cool down the body and prevent cramping or increased soreness.

5. Gradually increase your mileage

It takes about two years of consistent running to build up a solid base. Building a base is key if you are starting to run again, or running for the first time. If you are new to running, it is exciting and you are probably working towards some awesome goals. It can be easy to do too much too soon, which can lead to injury. Pulled muscles, strained joints, and tight tendons are common issues associated with overdoing it. Your body needs time to build muscle strength and endurance. Your base has nothing to do with pace; it is about consistent running miles. Building a proper base includes running a mixture of long runs, slow runs and easy, shorter runs for recovery. For a total beginner runner, you should be aiming for about three runs a week. As your shorter distances become easier and less taxing on your body, you can gradually begin to increase your overall weekly mileage, as well as your long run mileage. As you increase your mileage your endurance will improve and you’ll be able to run longer and ability to run shorter distances faster. When you first start running, you have to put the time and distance in to work your way up. Accept that running is a journey and everyone has to start at the beginning so build a proper base while you are there. Accept that running is a journey and that everyone has to start somewhere. Do not overdo it or over train. Listen to your body when you need to hold back. You do not want to cause injuries that can be difficult to heal and can slow your running down. You may be excited about it now, but take it slow, ease into it and build up that base properly so that you can run for your whole life and stay injury free.

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6. Avoid over training

There is such a thing as “over-training syndrome”, where the body has been pushed past its point of being able to properly recover. It is not a problem of too much training, but not enough resting. As runners, we are all vulnerable to this, especially if we are training for a huge race. Rest allows your body to recharge, and rebuild your muscles making you stronger. It is crucial that after a long run, or intense exercise, that you are refueling your body properly with wholesome nutrients, as well as sleeping well and resting. Overdoing it can cause all the hard work you have put in to back fire, and you could get injured. Forget the idea that rest is only for the weak and that somehow you will loose your fitness in a day. This is not the case; rest is a very important part of training. Over-training can increase your risk of injuries as your muscles and tendons are tighter and you are more fatigued. Give your body the time it needs to rest and recover. Pay attention to your body and if there is a chance you might be over training, take a rest day!

7. Get fitted for shoes

Not all running shoes are made alike. The type of shoe you need varies depending upon your foot type and style of running. A sports store that specializes in athletic footwear can you help you figure out what style might be best for you. It is imperative that you get properly fitted with the right pair of shoes for you. Foot type is based upon the structure of your foot and the degree of pronation. Pronation is the normal inward rolling of your foot in running as your foot strikes the ground and transitions into pushing off. Abnormal gait can lead to injuries. There are so many different styles of shoes out there, get the one that fits your foot.

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