Preventing Running Injuries
Spring is here so it’s a great time to get out and run. The cardiovascular benefits can be a wonderful compliment to your strength training as well as an effective way to shed a few pounds. But it is quite common to begin a running program only to find yourself injured a few weeks in. Whether you are training for a 5k race, or just running for fitness, nothing can be more frustrating than getting injured and not be able to run. Below are some basic principles you can follow to help prevent injury.
Stick to a plan when increasing weekly mileage and pace
One common reason runners get injured is because they progress their distance and/or pace beyond what their body is capable of at their current fitness level. Regardless of your running goals, it is best to have a plan and stick to it. Your plan should increase cumulative weekly mileage no more than 10 percent per week. For example, if your plan includes 10 miles in the first week, with the 10 percent rule, the second week should be no more than 11 miles, the third week no more than 12 miles, etc. If 10 percent is too much, then use 3 percent or 5 percent. The goal is to let your body adapt as your mileage progresses. The same goes for including hard workout days in your regime. Its best to follow a hard day/easy day/easy day/hard day rule at minimum. If you feel you need more rest, then definitely take it. Again, it’s all about letting your body absorb the training so that your fitness level improves and you can then safely increase your mileage or pace.
Listen to your body
As you’re increasing mileage and pace, it’s very important to listen to your body. If you are tired or sore, take a break. You can’t “run through” pain. Cross training offers a great opportunity to have an active rest day and give your running muscles a break. If you are very fatigued and find you don’t have the desire to run or your pace has really slowed, it’s a good sign that you might need a day of complete rest. If you are trying to run when you are not rested and overly fatigued, you aren’t gaining fitness benefits from your workout and you are putting yourself at high risk for injury. Overly tired muscles don’t hold good running form and therefor create too much burden on muscles that are not designed to carry the load of impact.
Wear proper fitting shoes
A good running shoe store will be able to help you find a shoe that is right for you. There are so many shoes on the market today designed to fit all types of runners. A good running shoe store should be able to evaluate your stride and tell you which shoe is best for you. It can be helpful to bring an old pair of running shoes with you so they can see the wear pattern to learn more about your stride. It’s also very important to make sure you change your running shoes on a regular frequency. Most training shoes are good for 300 to 500 miles. If your shoes are worn out, it can make you more prone to repetitive stress injuries. It is possible for shoes to be worn out even prior to maxing out the mileage. Compression of the midsole can be seen by looking at the midsole of the shoe from the side to see if wrinkles are present. This is an indication that the cushioning material is compressed and no longer providing the support you need.
Run on a level surface
Though it is important to run on the proper side of the road to safely follow traffic patterns, constantly running on one side of a road that has even a slight pitch or slant to it can cause you to run out of balance. Over a long period of time, being out of balance can create a leg-length discrepancy or pronation problems. Changing up your running route or running on a track or treadmill can help avoid issue that can occur from running day after day, week after week, on an uneven surface.
Repetitive use of the muscle groups needed for running can create tight muscles. Running with tight muscles can cause improper running form which could potentially lead to injury. It’s important to keep the muscles stretched out to maintain the range of motion and avoid straining. Dynamic stretching is best done before a run. Dynamic stretching uses momentum and doesn’t go beyond the current range of motion. After a run, its best to do static stretching where a stretch is held using techniques to gradually elongate the muscle.
Follow these basic principles to help keep you happy, healthy and running strong!
by Lois Waite