Running injuries are a lot more common than most of us assume. As many as 50% of regular runners hurt themselves while training. Fortunately, injuries like shin splints and stress fractures are not that difficult to avoid. To make sure you’re keeping safe, make sure you’re avoiding the most common mistakes and following these tips!
1. Warm up and cool down: Running is a strenuous exercise and your body needs to adjust to it. A mix of stretching and walking, followed by some light jogging will go a long way in getting your body warmed up and ready to go.
Be careful not to stretch too deeply as this can sometimes cause more harm than good. Also, you should stretch everyday after doing about 10 minutes of warm up. Avoid doing it in a hurry and hold each stretch for about 30 seconds without any extreme or jerky motions. Current research suggests that a mix of foam rolling and dynamic stretching is best before exercising and static stretching afterward.
2. Build mileage gradually: Whether you’re starting to get into running after a relatively inactive period of your life or if you’ve just set yourself a new goal like running a 5k or a half or full marathon, make sure you increase your mileage gradually.
Your body needs to build up cardiovascular fitness as well as adjust to the biomechanics of impact and so a few weeks of running 3-4 times a week is a good place to start before getting into training for a 5k or a half marathon.
3. Cross-train: Alternate between running and cycling or strength training. This allows your body time to recover from each modality before exerting it more deeply and also helps build complimentary muscle groups. Strength training improves the overall athleticism of your body and helps prevent injuries that are caused by overcompensation for weaker muscles.
Exercises that focus on full body strength are ideal. One exercise you should do as often as possible, side-lying leg lifts are very useful to help open your hips and prevent strains in your hamstrings, IT bands and hips. You can do these by lying on your side and then lifting your upper leg up and lowering it down slowly. Do about ten reps of these on either side and then repeat it 3 times for a total of 4 sets.
Another really good exercise to help prevent tendinitis in your achilles tends is heel lowering. Rise up on the balls of your feet lifting your heel off the ground. Then slowly lower back down while counting slowly up to five. Do 3 sets of 15 reps for this one.Finally, planks (and all the plank variations) will help you strengthen your core and hips and go a long way in preventing hip and back injuries. We can’t stress how important and useful planks are!
4. Foam roll: In addition to being a personal (free) massage, foam rolling has a number of important benefits. Foam rolling works by helping disentangle fascia, a fibrous layer of tissue that all our muscles are wrapped in. Fascia tends to get wound up and bound to muscles and nerves and this can cause restrictions in our motion and can be painful. When fascia cannot move freely, they form incorrectly. When you regularly roll the sides of your hips, you help release fascia adhesions. You increase blood flow to your muscles and create more space for flexibility and natural recovery.
5. Get help: If you have an ambitious target outside, getting help from an expert or professional trainer can go a long way. They can help you with your program so that you’re making progress but not overtraining and risking injury. They can also help analyze your running form and make bio-mechanic corrections so that you are maximizing your running efficiency and minimizing fatigue and wear and tear. A trained expert can also study how your foot hits the ground, how arched (or not) your feet are and then give you tips and recommend orthotics specifically for your body.,
So there you have it! Run hard, but run careful. We want you to be safe and healthy and prepared to test yourself without hurting yourself. If you have any other suggestions or questions about our tips, please be in touch and we would be happy to help you out as best as we can.