Most running injuries can be avoided by taking action early if they symptoms appear and most can be corrected through a few steps. Before jumping into injury prevention, here are a few of the most common injuries associated with running:
– IT Band Syndrome – Pain in the outside of the knee
– Runner’s Knee – Pain in the front, inside or back of the knee
– Shin Splints or Stress-fractures – Lower-shin pain
– Plantar Fasciitis – Heel and foot pain
When looking at the list above, you can see that the most often injured body parts are the knees and the feet. This makes sense when you think about the physics of running: every time one of your feet strikes the ground, your body weight is support on one leg and then is pushing the body forward. This is a combination of impact and stress that leads to injuries in the knees and the feet.
Understanding this will help guide you to see that the way to prevent running injuries is to put the right shoes on your feet to take up impact and support the body and at the same time keep the body flexible so that the legs can do the job of holding you up and moving you forward.
The Keys to Preventing Running Injuries
Here are five key steps that will help prevent running injuries:
1) Wear the correct shoes – The selection of the right running shoes for your body is the most critical step of all. The shoes you pick need to provide enough cushioning for your body weight and they need to support your foot so that your foot does not turn inward or outward while the foot is on the group. This inward or outward rolling motion (called pronation or supplication) is one of the key triggers of stress on the knee.
2) Increase mileage slowly – Running is essentially a repetitive motion; you’re taking running strides over and over again. It’s important then for new runners to start out slowly. Increase the mileage that you run each week by no more than 10% to help avoid injuries. In other words, if you run 10 miles in a particular week, you should not increase your mileage by more than 1 mile as you go into the next week.
3) Stretch – Shin splints are most frequently caused by stiff and inflexible calf muscles (the big muscles in the back of your lower-leg). Because muscles work in opposition to one another, stiff calf muscles mean that the front of the leg takes up the bulk of the impact. New runners in particular should be stretching their calves and feet frequently.
4) Avoid running on consecutive days – When starting out, try to put a rest day between each of your runs. This will greatly increase your chances of avoiding an impact related injury. You can use those off days to recover from your runs or use them for strength training and flexibility training like yoga or Pilates. The strength and flexibility that you gain on those days off will ultimately make you a stronger runner as well.
5) Vary your running surfaces – Try to mix up the surfaces that you run on, again especially in the first few months of running. Plan some of your runs on grass, dirt trails, and synthetic or dirt running tracks. Running on concrete day after day can be a contributor to shin splints.
6) Take action if you feel aches and pains – Perhaps the most important tip in preventing injuries is to do something if you feel things going wrong. Often runners “run through” pain and this leads them to a point that a fairly minor injury ends up being a very serious one. If you are having pain, get in checked out by your doctor or a sports medicine doctor before it becomes a serious problem.
Keeping yourself flexible, varying the terrain and making sure that you have on the right shoes will help avoid a great many running injuries. Running doesn’t have to hurt and it certainly can be a fun and healthy addition to your life.