If you're a runner or want to begin running, it's important to take care to prevent any injuries. Nothing is worse than starting a new exercise routine or starting to train for a race and then injuring yourself. There are a variety of ways to prevent and avoid running related injuries. It's not only important to have correct form, but also to have the correct equipment, the appropriate warm-up and cool downs and to pay attention to any aches or pains felt. As long as you pay attention to your body and take care of your body, you should experience very few running injuries.
Part One of Three:
Avoiding Injuries Before and After Your Run
1Stretch. Stretching is an essential part of most sports and exercises. Regular stretching helps promote flexibility of your muscles and keeps your body limber. This can help improve the performance of your running.
- Many people think that stretching is part of their warm-up routines. However, stretching should be done after you warm-up when your muscles are warm and have had some blood flow through them.
- Don't rush through your stretches either. Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds and work through every major muscle group and joint. Also, don't hold them at a point when it hurts, you should just feel a slight pulling or stretching sensation.
- Some specific stretches that can benefit runners include: front quadricep stretch, forward stretch, bicycle stretch, side stretch, flexed calf stretch and sitting hamstring stretch.
2Strengthen your core and leg muscles. You might not think that strength training is an important part to running or to preventing running related injuries. However, this is an essential form of exercise needed to prevent injuries.
- Strength training helps prepare your muscles and body for running. When you run there are a variety of muscles that are activated. If one or more aren't strong or they're unequally strong, this can lead to injury.
- Work on strength training to make sure each muscle group needed for running has been equally strengthened and worked. This prevents some muscles from getting overworked.
- Strength training should focus on: strengthening the back of the legs, the knees, the glutes and the core.
3Participate in cross training. Like strength training, its important to engage in other cardiovascular activities outside of running. Cross training with other exercises will help prevent many overuse injuries typically caused by running.
- Cross training is any other physical activity outside of your main sport - running in this case. It can include exercises like: swimming, using the elliptical, stationary bike and the rowing machine.
- If you are prone to injury or have had frequent injuries while running, its typically recommended not to do consecutive days of running. Alternate between days of cross training and those of running.
4Train properly. A common time for injuries is when runners are tracing for a race or competition. Make sure you're training properly to avoid injuries prior to a big event.
- If you're looking to go longer or faster, your training should reflect a staircase progression. Increase time or intensity for a week or two and then add in a week of fewer miles and a slower speed.
- It's typically recommended to increase both volume, duration and intensity by no more than 5-10% per week.
5Know your limits. Although it'd be great to run that half marathon 20 minutes quicker than last year, it might be beyond your current fitness level and ability. To prevent injury you need to be aware of your personal limits.
- As much as you'd like to progress to a faster pace or go longer distances, if you push your threshold too much, you're likely to get an injury.
- Your muscles and joints need time to recover in-between runs and other forms of exercise. If you keep pushing and pushing yourself to meet a lofty goal, there's a high chance you'll injure yourself.
- Once you feel your body slowing down or aching a little more than usual, you're coming up on your body's limits fast. Stop, rest and take some time for recovery.
6Listen to your body. You know your body the best. Regardless of what a friend, running coach or trainer suggests, if you feel like you need to rest or stop, do so.
- Many injuries occur when you push past or push through times when there are pains or aches. You know your body, if its hurting — and not that good type of soreness — you need to stop and rest.
- Also, don't be influenced by others. If you need to drop out of a race or skip a run with a friend in favor of rest, recover or repair of a injury, that's important.
Part Two of Three:
Preventing Injuries While Running
1Wear the correct shoes. One of the most important pieces of equipment that runners have when it comes to preventing injuries are their shoes. If you do not wear the correct type of shoe you can seriously injure yourself. If possible, go to a specialty running store. Sometimes there will be an expert on-hand to evaluate your gait and determine what you need out of a shoe.
- There are shoes to fit any type of runner and any type of foot. It's important to communicate to the salesperson at the shoe store what your needs are. For instance, if you have flat feet you'll need arch support, or if you have high arches, you need lateral heel support.
- There are shoes for minimalist runners that mimic running in bare feet and shoes that have stabilize your foot or your arch.
- In addition to wearing the right type of shoe, it's also important to wear shoes that aren't too years old. You should aim to replace your running sneakers every 300–500 miles.
2Run with the right form. You'd be surprised how much the way you run affects whether or not you'll end up with an injury. Make sure you aim to run with correct form to prevent any possible injuries in the long run.
- First, run with good posture. Your torso should be straight and your neck and head should be straight and facing forward.
- Your arms should hang loosely at your sides in a comfortable position. Swing them back in forth in tandem to your stride.
- As for your feet, you should run heel to toe. Land on your heel and roll forward so that you end up pushing off with your toes.
- Also try not over stride (where your foot lands far ahead of your knee) as this causes additional wear and tear on the joints and muscles.
3Run on a flat surface. You'd think the trail, sidewalk or road that you run on is flat, right? But not so much. Many of the surfaces that runners use (especially outdoors) are not as flat as you'd think and can lead to injuries overtime.
- For example, many runners run on the left side of the road facing towards traffic for safety reasons. However, most roads typically slant off towards the shoulders to let rain water drip off. Your left foot will always land on a lower part of the road, while your right foot is higher. This offsets your hips tremendously and can typically lead to injury over time.
- Trails and sidewalks are also typically uneven and cause hip, knee and foot injuries from the different angles the running surface slants.
- If you run outside, especially on a road, make sure you compensate for the unleveled surfaces. For example, run on both the left and right sides of the road or in the center of the road where it's more flat if there aren't any cars.
4Limit how much speed work you do. Although doing speed work can be beneficial to your running over time, it's also one of the top causes of injury. This type of training is typically high intensity and is very tough on the body, muscles and joints.Advertisement
Part Three of Three:
Dealing with Aches, Pains and Injuries
1Consider talking to a run coach. A running coach is a person who is certified in running biomechanics. They're usually a seasoned runner themselves and can help anyone from a newbie runner to a seasoned athlete.
- If you're interested in training for an event, beginning to run or improve on your running, it may be helpful to consult with a running coach.
- You may only need to see your coach just a few times - to get an idea of your form, how to train for your race or to start running.
2Get your form and gait analyzed. Another part of preventing injury is making sure you have correct form. Someone can definitely coach you on proper form, but it may be useful to have your form and gait analyzed (especially if your injury is stemming from that).
- How you run is crucial to preventing injury. When your gait is analyzed a professional will take into account how your foot hits the ground, whether or not your foot lands flat or is pronated, if you have a rigid or flexible foot arch, and your posture.
- Once you pay attention to your form and gait you may notice that you run easier or without as many aches and pains in the long run.
- In addition, many issues with your feet - whether it's your arch or pronation - can be fixed with proper shoes and shoe inserts.
3Ice your aches and pains. So you've gotten yourself injured. Now what? You need to take proper care of your injury to prevent it from getting worse but also to help you recover appropriately.
- Icing your aches and pains is a good place to start. Either fill a small bag with ice cubes and water or use a bag of frozen vegetables.
- Alternate between icing your ache for about 10-15 minutes and letting it rest slightly elevated.
- You may want to consider taking a few days off and ice the area until there is no more pain or swelling.
4Use tape or compression bandages. In addition to ice, both compression bandages and tape can help prevent swelling and aid your body in the process of recovery. You may even want to consider doing a combination of both ice and compression bandages.
- You can use a simple ACE bandage from your local pharmacy to wrap your injured area tightly. It should be snug, but not cutting off blood supply.
- You may also want to tape the area. It's thought that since the tape pulls at your skin, it attracts more blood flow to that area which can help speed healing.
- Compression is particularly useful for when you just start back with running. You may want to consider wearing compression socks or tights until you're 100% recovered.
5Talk to a doctor. If you're having significant pain or have aches that just don't go away, it's important to stop running and talk to a doctor. Your physician will be able to accurately diagnose a possible injury and prescribe the appropriate treatment if needed.
- Many injuries can be prevented by just stopping at the first sign of an ache or pain. Many times you may push past these into a full blown injury.
- Even if you don't think your "injury" is something a doctor needs to evaluate, it's always better to be safe than sorry. Plus, the physician may be able to give you tips on how to prevent an injury and how to treat similar injuries in the future.
- Definitely discontinue running, or any other exercise for that matter, if you experience any severe sharp pains while running, difficulty breathing, or any other significant discomfort. Speak to your doctor immediately.