How To

Staying on Track: How to Combat and Prevent Common Running Injuries

Runners can experience a variety of ailments, but prevention and recovery is easily achieved by following some simple steps.

Having a passion for running can come at a cost. Many runners strive to run faster and farther, never content with their current running state. So, naturally, when you push your body toward new goals, sometimes you can push a little too hard. That’s why many runners, at some point or another, experience injuries. Though it may seem like an inevitable evil, here are some simple changes and quick fixes for your running routine that will get you back on the trail, and prevent reoccurring injuries.

Common Injuries:

Runners who complain of pain in and around their knee cap are probably experiencing patellofemoral pain syndrome, otherwise known as runner’s knee. The best way to prevent this common injury is to strengthen your quads, calves, and hamstrings. Break up your running pattern and try cycling or doing wall sits before and after running to help these problem areas.

Shin Splints are the next most common, and probably the most well-known running injury. Most runners have experienced this stabbing pain caused by the muscles and tendons covering the shinbone becoming inflamed. The best solution for immediate relief is to ice your shins. But if you are looking for a long-term solution, switch out your footwear. Making sure that your sneakers are the right fit for your foot, as well as running on softer ground, will prevent this pain from returning.

Achilles tendinitis happens when the tissues that connect the heel to the lower-leg become irritated. This happens commonly in runners who try to increase mileage rapidly, or who aren’t wearing the appropriate footwear. Luckily, it can easily be avoided by properly stretching your calf muscles during warm ups and cool downs.

Plantar Fasciitis is pain in the heel or arch of the foot caused by pressure on your feet as you run. Wearing shoes or socks with extra padding can prevent it, but the best way to keep your feet happy is to stretch them. Though it may seem odd, simply flexing your feet and scrunching your toes for about 20 reps can make this injury a thing of the past.

That sharp, stinging pain that some runners experience on the outside of your knee is called Iliotibial band syndrome or ITBS. Though it normally goes away when you stop running, the tendon that runs down the thigh, from the pelvic bone to the tibia, is probably still inflamed. To relieve the swelling, try massaging the area with a foam roller. Also do side stepping squats with weights to strengthen the glutes and stabilizing muscles.

If you haven’t been scared away by the list above, following these simple practices will keep you pounding the pavement and out of the doctor’s office:

Warm up and cool down: Since this is not part of the actual run, many runners skip this step, but their bodies will pay for it. Before you push your body to the limit, you need to prepare your muscles for the strain. In the same way, a cool-down allows tight muscles to slowly loosen up. Moves like lunges, leg swings, hip flexors, and hamstring, quad and calf stretches can make all the difference in preventing an injury.

Use correct form: As silly as it sounds, many runners don’t use correct form. This can mean pulling the same muscles over and over again, and possibly cause permanent damage. If you want to have a long running career, consider talking with a physical trainer or reading up on proper form. Proper form will keep your body aligned, and when it is balanced it, it will also stay healthy.

Buy new shoes: There are so many different running shoes on the market that it can become overwhelming. It’s hard not to get comfortable with your broken-in shoes and refuse to change them out every 600 miles, like you are supposed to, but this is a big mistake. New, properly-sized shoes are an easy fix to prevent knee and joint pain.

Strength train: Many runners think strength training has nothing to do with running. They couldn’t be more wrong. By devoting some time to your weights, you can prevent a variety of injuries. Focus on and build up those problem muscles so that your knees, quads, calves, and hamstrings can withstand the beating of a long-distance run.

Know your limits: Though this may seem like a no-brainer, it’s not easy for the highly motivated. When training toward a goal, it can be hard not to increase your mileage or speed drastically. Instead, follow the 10 percent rule, or slowly increase training by no more than 10 percent each week. The second part is to listen to your body. If you are in pain, take a break. It is also crucial to give your muscles a day off. Resting at least one day a week gives the sore, inflamed muscles time to heal and is the best way to make sure you can keep running.

Image from Thomas Sørenes on the Wikimedia Commons

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