Gradually build up your training intensity
If you are relatively new to running, it’s only natural that you will want to push yourself to your limit. While a new running programme can be very exciting, one of the most common causes of injuries in runners is to increase training intensity too quickly. To keep yourself injury free, you should ensure that you build your fitness levels up gradually and increase your distances by setting small goals each week. By increasing the distance you run by 5% each week your body will have ample time to adapt to the training intensity.
Set aside time for stretching
Everyone knows the importance of stretching, but it’s amazing how many people never stretch, stating that they always forgot or just don’t have the time to do it. You should always set aside at least 5 minutes after your running session for a stretch. This will allow you to cool down, reduce muscle soreness, lengthen your muscles and improve athletic performance. Never do static stretches before running. The best time to stretch is just after a warm up period when your muscles are warm, or at the end of your workout.
An important thing to remember: Never stretch immediately after a long distance run (12 miles or more). Your muscles have hundreds and hundreds of micro-tears in them and by stretching them they could turn into macro-tears, causing a significant injury. Rather than doing this, let yourself cool down, take a shower, eat a high protein recovery meal and drink plenty of water. Then you can stretch a few hours later. If you experience any pain when stretching, then either you’ve stretched too forcefully or you are in the wrong position. Remember, stretching shouldn’t be strenuous; it’s about increasing your flexibility, mobility and preventing injury.
Listen to your body’s pain signals
Most running injuries don’t just come on instantly. They produce pain signals such as soreness, aches, cramp and persistent pain – but as only you can feel these pains, it’s up to you to listen to them and act accordingly. As a general rule of thumb; anytime it hurts you to run, do not run! Immediately after you notice an injury developing, have a rest and stop running for a few days. When your body is free of the pain, you can then gradually resume running.
After you first notice a pain that worsens as you run or requires you to alter your running technique, take a week off. Substitute your running with light walking and maybe add some upper body training just to keep you active. After a week, run half of your usual running distance at a significantly slower pace than usual. The idea of this is to gradually ease yourself back in to your running routine and prevent the injury from coming back. If you are still struggling to run as normal and feel the injury might be worse than first anticipated, it’s worth scheduling an appointment with a chartered sports physiotherapist.
Wear appropriate running shoes
Wearing appropriate footwear is crucially important when running, especially if you want to prevent unnecessary foot injuries. It’s surprising how many runners (both new and experienced) don’t invest in adequate running trainers. As well as causing new injuries, the wrong footwear can also aggravate existing problems, causing pain in your knees, feet, legs and ankles. Wearing old and worn footwear can also lead to injury. One of the most important parts of a running shoe is the cushioning; make sure that they haven’t lost this. If you have had problems with your feet in the past, it’s recommended that you go to a running shop and have the shoes fitted to your exact measurements.
Remember, not all running shoes are made the same. The type of shoe that you need will vary depending upon your foot type and running style. When you hear the words ‘foot type’, this refers to the structure of your foot and its degree of pronation. If you are unfamiliar with the term ‘pronation’, this is the natural inward rolling of your foot as it hits the ground when running and transitions into pushing off. Abnormal pronation can result in injuries, so always choose a running shoe that is suited to your foot and its degree of pronation.
Add strength training to your running programme
You are probably wondering what strength training has to do with running and the prevention of injuries, but it’s a well known fact that it can significantly improve a runners overall athleticism and body strength. By including strength training in your training programme you will reduce muscular fatigue and lower your chances of picking up an injury. Any training exercises that you incorporate should focus on including both your lower and upper body muscle groups. Hill running is a great form of strength training because running up a steep hill forces you into using good technique. Weight lifting and plyometrics are both effective ways of increasing strength.