How to Prevent Injury with Running
Whether you are a new or experienced runner being sidelined by an injury is always a fear that I see. Heck, I have the same fear and my career is focused on injury prevention and recovery!
Oftentimes runners only start to care about injuries once they have been sidelined by one but why not prevent them in the first place. This CAN be done fairly easily by a few changes and “secrets” from me!! Let’s look at the 10 best-kept secrets for runners to prevent injury today!
Learn your body and Prevent Injuries
I think this is by far one of the most important things a runner (and human being) can do for themselves. You need to know and listen to your body to be able to learn the signals that it gives you.
Both good and bad signals.
Start with just asking yourself daily how you feel. A helpful way to assess is to keep a journal to jot down (quickly) how you feel each day. Or find a spot in your planner to do this. Write down/think about if you are more tired than normal, have excess muscle soreness, or feel generally really good.
Try to learn where your limits are based on the bad signs that your body gives you and the good ones.
Recovery is Most Important
Your body actually gets stronger during recovery. Sure, training hard whether you are lifting weights or running is part of it. But the healing and muscle building happens during the recovery period. Simply put with a workout session you stimulate your body by forcing it to a higher level than you are able to do. Then it reacts by recovering and rebuilding to the level that you demanded of it. You can learn even more about recovery HERE.
You need to plan your recovery as well as your training. Every 3-4 weeks you should have a lower load week. Shorter-term you shouldn’t do two intense runs in two days, take a recovery run in between the intense days at a minimum. Not only should we plan in lower volume weeks throughout our cycles we should also take an entire week off a couple of times a year. Let your body recover and rest!!
Dynamic Core Strength
So many runners are horrible about doing core and upper body work. They mistakenly think that running is just about the lungs and legs. However, your core is the next most important thing to your legs as far as muscles go!! Weakened cores will cause your form to collapse with fatigue and increase your risk of injury due to compensation. Try to add a DYNAMIC core session a couple of times a week with your other strength training.
Dynamic means don’t hold a plank. You should be moving your arms and/or legs while working your core!
Check your Running Form
Running doesn’t cause injuries, poor form causes injuries. Getting a gait analysis done is a great way to check on your form and see if anything needs to change. Another tool is to have someone take a video of you running and look for key points. Are you upright? Over-reaching with your foot? Not getting full Hip Extension?
Work on Mobility After Every Run
Some will tell you to stretch after every run. While I think stretching is great I think you should do a combination of static stretching and dynamic stretching to get the full benefit. Do some hip CARs and cat/cows in addition to stretching each muscle group for about 20 seconds after your run. You will be amazed at how much of a difference it makes in how your body feels!
Choose the Right Shoe for YOU
There is a lot of advice out there about shoes. I have my own opinions and recommendations that will come soon. However, my first and foremost recommendation is to find a shoe that feels good. Just because your best running friend wears a shoe and loves it doesn’t mean it is the right one for you. Go to a shoe store and try out a whole bunch of different shoes (different brands and styles). Generally speaking, the one that is the most comfortable for you is going to be the best one. Also, do NOT get orthotics, at least not yet!
Address Pain IMMEDIATELY
Out of my 10 best secrets for runners to prevent injury this one is huge. If you hurt, get evaluated. Go see a Physical Therapist that can assess things and figure out why you have pain. The longer you wait the worse it will be and harder to recover from. Don’t be tough and push through the pain. It will bite you in the A$$.
Speed Work Cautiously
Be careful when you introduce speed work and also how often you do it. These runs put a much higher strain on your body tissues. Keep it to only one speed session a week get a solid rest day following your speed work session.
Increase Mileage Slowly
Most overuse injuries can come back to doing too much too soon. The general rule is 10% increase each week. However, this can be a bit deceiving and depends a lot on your training volume currently. I recommend new runners start with adding a mile to one run a week to increase instead of the 10% rule. Just be sure to take it slow and no more than a mile or so at a time!!
Final Thoughts on Preventing Injury When Running
There are so many more specific ways that you can prevent injury when running but these are just the golden rules in my book. These 10 secrets for runners to prevent injury will go a long way for you to stay injury-free and keep running!!
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Top 10 ways for how to prevent injury in runners
Dr. Abby Siler, PT, DPT is a Physical Therapist with 10 years of experience in a variety of settings. She has spent the majority of her time treating athletes in orthopedic clinics and worker’s compensation cases. She is a runner herself for the past 15 years and a lifelong athlete. Dr. Abby loves to teach runners how to stay injury free and out of her clinic.