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How can I prevent common running injuries?

There really is no proven way that fits everyone.  But, what you should do first is get fitted for the running shoes that will be best for you; stability, neutral, or cushion.  It is always a good idea to begin your workout with some self-myofascial release (SMR) or foam rolling.  This helps to relax any tight muscles you may have that cause compensations during running.  Always start with at least five minutes of warming up.  This can be either walking or light jogging.  Many injuries occur because individuals start out too fast.  Follow a plan or program that meets your needs, and finish with a cool down.  Once again, finish your workout with some SMR and static stretches, playing special attention to the calves, hip flexors/quadriceps, and hamstrings as these areas can become extremely tight.  Don't be afraid to take a day off, or only run every other day.  Overtraining can also be a culprit in the injury cycle.  Good luck!
Aside from having the correct shoes for your running gait you also need to replace those shoes every 300-500 miles.  I suggest you keep an online log of your running to monitor your progress, make notes regarding great workouts as well as bad ones, and monitor the mileage on your shoes.  Incorporating self-myofascial release prior to running followed by active stretching is helpful in relaxing tight muscles and preparing them for the movements ahead.  Having a plan of action that is not overly ambitions is essential.  A good rule of thumb is to increase total volume (total number of miles or distance) by no more than 10% a week. Every 4-5 weeks back off a bit to allow for recovery.  Most importantly, listen to your body, it is giving you signals all the time and most injuries can be prevented by backing off and seeking expert advice when something is feeling "not quite right".

There are several things that you can do to decrease your chance of injury.

  • Wear the right running shoe.  It is worth the time to have your feet and gait assessed at a professional running store to find the best one for you. Replace every 300-500 miles.
  • Build your mileage slowly.  It is recommended that you increase no more than 10% per week.
  • Run on softer surfaces.  Try to avoid concrete sidewalks if possible.
  • Do strength and cross training to prevent muscle imbalances.
  • Incorporate active stretching, SMR and static stretching to warm up and cool down properly.
  • Allow recovery time after long runs so that your body can rebuild.  If you see initial signs of injury, stop running until the pain or swelling goes away.

 

To prevent running injuries requires a comprehensive approach. The majority of injuries that occur are due to cumulative trauma (running too often) paired with existing musculoskeletal dysfunctions (poor flexibility and strength). Before and after every run make sure to stretch your calves, hamstrings, and hip flexors (muscles in the front of your hips). When performing a stretch make sure to hold the stretched position for a minimum of 30 seconds. This allows the muscle enough time to relax and elongate. After stretching perform some basic strengthening exercises for your calves, legs and gluteals. Some basic strengthening exercises to help "wake up" your muscles include lunges, calf raises, lateral tube walking, and bodyweight squats. Perform one set of 10-15 repetitions. Once your body is nice and warm, you're ready to begin running.  Lastly, make sure to wear appropriate running shoes that are fitted properly.

There are many ways to prevent running injuries. One of the most important factors is to build up your training regimen. Taking on too many miles too fast can lead to overuse injuries. Depending on your goals, it may be advisable to consult a book or online resource for a training plan based on your level of fitness. It is advisable to do more than just running. Running alone works certain muscle groups in the legs. A gym regimen that incorporates a wide variety of leg exercises will help strengthen all muscle groups in the legs and provide added stability. For most people, flexibility training and stretching helps to reduce injury. Finally, many running stores have experts who can watch your running gait and help you to select proper shoes that coexist with your running goals. This too can help reduce running injuries.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.