How to Prevent Running Injuries

runners celebrating competing pain free after chiropractic treatment.

Running has become one of the most common forms of physical activity in today’s society. It can be a personal challenge, a community building activity (such as parkruns and fun runs) and most importantly a great work out. It is a sport that everyone can participate in – all you need is a good pair of shoes and a little motivation. That being said, running can be extremely hard on the body, especially when you are just getting started. We are finding at our chiropractic clinic in Surrey that injuries among runners are very common. From shin splints to rolled ankles, no one is immune to getting hurt. However, here are some tips to keep you healthy and on pace:

 

Do Not Do Too Much, Too Fast

When runners are just starting out and beginning to make progress, they tend to push their limits. While this is a great way to challenge yourself, it is important that you understand your body has a threshold. When this threshold gets exceeded, an injury will occur.

You should track your mileage on a daily and weekly basis. If you haven’t done much long-distance running before, your weekly mileage should begin quite low.

As you start seeing improvements, make sure any increase in weekly mileage occurs gradually rather than too quickly. A consensus among the running community is the rule of 10% – do not increase your mileage by more than 10% on a week to week basis. For many new runners, even 10% may be too much of a jump to begin with.

Like any general rules, the 10% rule isn’t applicable to everyone, and individualisation of running programmes still needs to occur. Despite this, when preparing for a distance run, it is recommended to start training as early as possible so the weekly mileage can be increased very slowly. A recent study showed that runners who increased their mileage by 3% a week had a much higher chance of success in their upcoming races compared to those ramping up their mileage quicker. Could you train for and complete a half marathon in 6 weeks? Possibly, but the toll it could take on your body and the injury risk you expose yourself to probably isn’t worth it.

So how do you know where to start? For new runners, start with short runs and accumulate miles over the week. It is important to keep close track of how far each run was, so apps such as “Map My Run” or online trackers are very helpful. As you increase your mileage, listen to your body. If you increase one week and start feeling achey and sore, scale back the mileage again and increase more gradually.

Female runner tying her shoes before a run.

 

Do Not Run Through Significant Pain

Runners all understand that some discomfort is part of the sport. Your legs and feet especially will likely be sore after a long run. However, if you notice significant pain and discomfort while running, consider taking a break. Convincing a runner to take a break is akin to taking blood from a stone, but it can help to save runners from more severe injury. Apart from the occasional rolled ankle, running injuries are rarely acute and traumatic. Far more commonly runners ignore pain and train through discomfort, “toughing it out”.

This results in a cumulative injury cycle. What does this mean you ask? It means if you continue to stress an injury by running, you will continue to make it worse and it can become a much more significant injury. Sometimes all it takes is an extra day or two off when symptoms are minor to allow your body to recover fully. This is important because if you have an injury, it is very common for the body to adapt by altering your gait (running pattern).

This may lead to less efficient running, bad habit development or potentially an injury elsewhere in the body. If you are running with a limp, the biomechanical stresses will be placed on different parts of the body. Listen to your body and if a nagging pain is lingering, consider getting checked out by a medical professional. It is much more beneficial to have an injury taken care of with one or two sessions rather than letting it persist and having to deal with it when it is much more serious.

 

Cadence (Stride length)

Amateur runners may not think too much about their running technique beyond putting one foot in front of the other. However, one of the most common reasons for running pain developing is incorrect stride length, or cadence. This is especially common with pain in the shins or lower leg injuries. New research has demonstrated that when you take longer strides as you run, the ground reaction forces on your legs will be increased. This increased force may lead to more injuries and micro traumas that may lead to chronic injuries.

If you think that this may be affecting your ability to run pain-free, try taking some shorter runs and actively try to take shorter steps while you run. Your legs will have to move faster to maintain the same speed as before, but you will find that you are injured less often. It will take some time to retrain the brain to alter your running pattern, but with some commitment and regular training, you will be able to make the transition.

 

Warming up and Flexibility

As with any other sport, it is essential that you warm up appropriately. Stretching hasn’t been proven to alter injury rates. The best way to warm up is actually to increase your body temperature prior to running. On top of this, dynamic movements prior to running can decrease injury risk and improve performance. These dynamic movements are things such as forward lunges, leg kicks, knee raises, tip toe walking and heel to bum kicks. These exercises help to get blood flow to muscles and help prepare you to start running.

Watch this video for some more information:

Quick Tips

  • Stay hydrated! Water is essential all the time but especially when training regularly.

  • Fuel your body with nutrients. Protein will be very helpful to allow you to recover after running. Running burns calories too, so make sure you fuel your body with a varied diet including health fats, fruit and vegetables.

  • Consider strength training alongside running. A diverse workout plan can help to reduce injuries while running and actually help you run faster. The stronger you are, the easier it is to prevent injuries. In particular, consider strengthening your glutes and hamstrings to cope with the running load.

  • REST. Your body needs time to recover. Consider implementing active rest days in your programme. On these days you can go for a gentle walk or swim to give your body a break while training, allowing you to fully recover.

  • Consider visiting a sports injury centre such as Pro Chiro Spine and Sports Chiropractic Clinic. As your training gets more intense and recovery becomes more difficult, it may be worth having an MOT type check up from a sports chiropractor to make sure your body is working as it should. These visits can help pick up areas that are starting to succumb to overloading, helping to prevent injuries from happening in the first place. Remember – prevention is always better than the cure.

Conclusion

There are many things that you can do to prevent injuries while training. These are just a starting point. Implement as many of these strategies into your routine as you can and you will be running pain-free in no time.

Sports Chiropractic Clinic in Surrey

Pro Chiro Spine and Sports Chiropractic is a sports chiropractic clinic in Surrey. We see people with all kinds of issues ranging from low back pain to sports injuries. The common link between our patients is they are frustrated with pain and injuries limiting them in life, and come to see us to take back control and live their lives without being limited by pain and injuries.

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