We’ve all had it happen to us: an injury that stops us in our tracks. When you’re a runner, there’s nothing worse than not being able to run. Unfortunately injuries are a common part of the game, but they don’t have to be. Here’s how to stop injuries instead of letting them stop you.
Tips for Running Injury Free
1. Know your limits. Reach for your goals, but do it slowly- build mileage, frequency, and intensity gradually.
2. Wear the right shoes. A running shoe expert can analyze your gait and steer you in the right direction- cushioned, neutral, or stability. Make sure your legs, feet, and hips feel good in the shoes you choose.
3. Listen to your body. When something hurts, pay attention to it. Figure out why it’s hurting- did you overwork it or is it the start of an injury? Whatever you do, don’t ignore it.
4. Warm up, cool down, stretch. These may not be the most exciting components of a run, but they’re what are going to keep you going without injury. Use ice after your run and foam roll as needed. Foam rolling improves circulation and breaks down knots that limit range of motion to speed up recovery.
5. Rest. Give your body time to recover and heal. Build rest days into your training plan. A rest day will not ruin your progress or fitness level!
Three of the most common running injuries are shin splints, IT band pain, and runner’s knee. Here’s how to prevent them from turning into something worse.
Injury: Shin Splints
What: Pain in the front of the lower leg, usually towards the inside.
Intervention: Rest. Ice. Ease up on the running by adding cross training, then slowly build up your mileage again. Be sure to stretch your calves, run on soft surfaces like dirt or grass, and make sure you’re in the right running shoe (not too stiff). Support from kinesiotaping or compression sleeves can help too.
Injury: IT Band
What: Pain on the outer side of the knee or hip.
Intervention: Rest and ice, then foam roll, stretch, and strengthen surrounding muscles of the knees and hips. Reduce running-specific friction of the IT band rubbing against your knee by cross training.
Many roads are slightly curved, so try running on the “wrong” side of the road to even out your stride. Loosening the IT band by stretching or using a foam roller is the key to preventing friction that causes the pain.
Injury: Runner’s knee
(patellofemoral pain syndrome; chondromalacia)
What: Pain around and under the knee cap; possible sensation of “grating” around the knee
Intervention: Reduce mileage and improve muscle strength around knee, especially the quadriceps. Deep knee-bending motions such as squats can aggravate pain. So can running on hard surfaces and hills.
Focus on building the small part of the quad muscle just above your knee cap by doing straight leg lifts. Holding the patella in the proper position with kinesiotape can help too.
Taking a few extra steps for injury prevention can be the key to keeping you in the running game.
About Guest Blogger Heather Neal:
Heather Neal, MS, RD, LDN is a registered dietitian and the blogger behind “with a Side of Sneakers”. She’s a new momma, triathlete in the making, and lover of things coffee.