Whether you’re just starting out or are a seasoned runner, getting injured is one of the most frustrating parts of running. Yes, everyone will get injured, sooner or later. But, when it happens to you, you have to wonder, how can you prevent running injuries?
Preventing injuries, for the most part, is common sense. Of course, real accidents do happen. I was running a month ago and near the end of 11 miles, I wasn’t paying attention and stepped on a root. My ankle immediately fell and I ended up with a bad sprain. So, there was not much that could have been done to avoid that injury. But, for others, following these basic tips can save you from weeks or months of recovery. Here are some tips for preventing injuries.
1. Listen to Your Body to Prevent Running Injuries
This one sounds like common sense, but you’d be surprised how many people ignore the cues their body is telling, maybe even screaming at them. Don’t ignore pain. A little soreness is OK, but if you notice consistent pain in a muscle or joint that doesn’t get better with rest, see your doctor and get it taken care of before it gets worse.
Also, when running, think about “good” pain and “bad” pain. The good pain helps build muscle, the bad pain, well, it just hurts. When you have bad pain going on, stop immediately. I once ended up walking home over 3 miles to avoid having a calf cramp turn into a pulled muscle. I took the next day off and was back running without becoming injured.
2. Warm-up before Running
Warm up — by walking, or lightly jogging. Static stretching cold muscles may cause injuries, so make sure you have warmed up before stretching. Many injuries occur as a result of inadequate stretching. Before and after you run, stretch your muscles thoroughly — especially your calf, hamstrings, groin, and quadriceps.
Often, runners will ignore their warm-up and start right into a run. I can understand this if you have limited time. My suggestion is to use the first 10-20% of your run as a warm-up. Start slow and gradually build into your run. Plus, you’ll still get the great benefit of running.
3. Strength Train
Add strength training and abdominal exercises to your routine. This strengthens muscles and develops core strength which helps with your running form, thus helping to prevent running injuries.
Many runners like to use weights and still others prefer body weight exercises. Do whatever feels most comfortable for you. Don’t worry about building bulk. If you include strength work as part of a normal exercise routine that includes running, you will make your body more toned, without adding bulk.
4. Cross Train
Mix up your fitness routine. Don’t only run. Try swimming, biking, or some other cardio-based activity. This helps prevent overuse injuries that more commonly occur when you do the same type of exercise over and over again.
I have a spinning bike in my house I bought at a garage sale. I use it at least once per week. To simulate running, I keep a high RPM of around 90-110. This will feel fast when you first start biking, but, it really helps improve your running cadence because you are more aware of how many steps you are taking. I really enjoy this break during the week because I can also watch some great running movies while exercising in the house.
5. Shoes Are Key
Wear proper-fitting socks and shoes. If the soles of your running shoes have worn thin or are angled, it’s time to get a new pair. If you have foot problems, such as flat feet or high arches, you may want to consider using orthotic shoe inserts.
Shoes are really tough to get right. Some of you have great form and can use minimalist shoes, others need more protection. Regardless, get proper fitting shoes and change them out on a regular basis. It’s amazing how light on your feet you will feel when you put on new shoes.
6. Run Wisely
Run on a flat, smooth surface and avoid steep hills until your body gets used to the activity. Increase your mileage slowly. Too hard too fast can cause injury. I really love trail running, but it was hard to get started. It is very easy to get injured while running and trails offer a lot of distraction. So, stay focused when running, if possible, avoid using headphones and always be aware of your surroundings.
Following these basic tips will help to prevent running injuries and keep you on the roads and trails.