Are you a keen runner? Do you find that you keep getting injured? If so, you’re not alone. It’s a common issue among runners – that, for whatever reason, the injuries just start piling up. However, it doesn’t have to be like this. To help you out, we’ve pulled together our top tips on how to prevent running injuries.
Wondering how to prevent running injuries? Begin with warming up and cooling down properly
This is the big one. How many of us actually warm up and cool down properly? Not many, we’d guess. And yet it is absolutely fundamental to staying injury-free.
Forcing your muscles to go from sitting on a sofa to running even just 5k is a big step if you haven’t prepared them. Warming up gets the blood circulating, it stretches the muscle fibres and it also gets you mentally in the zone. Cooling down is equally important, transitioning you from intense activity to rest.
Find a warm up that suits you – dynamic lunges are great for stretching out your hips and your hamstrings. But we’d also just recommend a five-minute walk. It’s as good a way as any to prepare for a run.
Don’t just focus on your legs
Imagine you’re training for a marathon. You’re putting in the miles and have even got up to a half marathon distance. You felt tired, but good – this is something you feel you can do, at a push.
There’s only one problem – you’re getting a nagging pain on the outside of your knee. You try to shake it off, but then, once marathon day comes around, you’re forced to pull out around half way.
The chances are, if it’s an injury like an IT band strain, that it’s not actually your legs that are too blame. Sure – you’ve been getting plenty of miles under your belt. But the fact is that an underlying mechanical problem – perhaps weak glutes or calves– is affecting your running form.
Once you get to runs over half marathon distance, that kind of weakness can really have an impact. You might feel fit enough to run the whole way. But if your legs aren’t working in the most efficient way because your body isn’t supporting their motion correctly, something is going to give. Remember running is a whole body exercise – so don’t neglect those crunches, hip flexes and core exercises too.
Sort your running form out
There are lots of factors that go into developing the right running form. One of the most important is the point we’ve made above. It’s crucial to make sure you’re strong enough to support your body through the repeated impact of running.
It also comes down to footwear too, of course. It’s one of the most hotly-debated topics in running. Whether you’re a minimalist or maximalist when it comes to shoes, our advice is not to follow the crowd.
Go to a proper athletics shop and get them to look at your running form. Hit the treadmill and get them to do a gait analysis. It should go a long way toward you getting shoes that help you to run efficiently and in a way that isn’t damaging you.
Learn to rest
We all love to run. So much, that it can become an addiction for some. This is particularly the case for new runners. You’re bitten by the bug and you just want to get out on the trails or the road as often as you can.
The problems arise when you forget to listen to your body (or your training plan). In our enthusiasm to run, it can be easy to think ‘I’ll just go for a short jog today’ when in actual fact we should be resting. It’s important even when we’re not feeling a niggling injury.
Rest days are as important as training days, because this is the time when you consolidate the progress you’ve made. Every run causes micro-tears in your muscles, and rest days are your body’s opportunity to rebuild them.
The theory is that they rebuild them stronger (increasing our strength), but if we don’t rest they don’t have a chance to do this.
So, don’t ignore that big red ‘R’ in your training plan calendar. It’s there for a reason.