Beating a record. The runner’s high. Exercise. Proving you can. Community. The next race. There are a lot of reasons that people participate in the sport of running, but whether you are training to beat your PR or simply hoping to cross the finish line, the last thing you want to deal with on race day is an injury. Although we offer multiple options for treating sports-related injuries at In2it Medical, such as regenerative injections, physical therapy, osteopathic manipulation, and lifestyle recommendations, we would rather see you pushing toward your performance goals than recuperating from an injury. That’s why we’ve put together a list of 4 tips for preventing running injuries:
Train properly There’s a lot that can be said about training for different types of races, terrain, and experience levels, but here are the general rules:
Don’t overdo it—Don’t expect to go from little or no running to conquering that half marathon in 2 weeks. Set realistic goals that will allow you to work up to your desired performance. The quickest way to get hurt is to push yourself too quickly when you are unprepared. There are many online resources available to help you design a training plan that will get you safely to your goal.
Increase mileage gradually—As a rule of thumb, only increase your mileage 5% to 10% each week. While this won’t make you 100% injury-proof, it will decrease the likelihood of you pushing yourself too far and causing injury.
Warm up—Be sure to spend at least 10 minutes performing warm-up exercises before a big run. This will get your blood flowing and will flush lactic acid build-up from your muscles. Once you’re warm, stretch out each muscle group for at least 30 seconds. Warm muscles will stretch under pressure rather than tear or spasm.
Cross train—Your body absorbs a lot of shock while running, so strengthening other areas of the body will not only help keep you fit, but it will help counter the overall toll that running takes on your body. Building core strength can improve your balance, which can reduce the likelihood of ankle and foot injuries, while alternating training tactics can prevent overuse injuries.
Give your body the fuel it needs A car without gas or even the right kind of gas cannot run. The same goes for our bodies: without the right fuel, your muscles will be under more strain to deliver their usual performance and you may end up pushing yourself too far, resulting in injury. Despite your high calorie expenditure, don’t fill up on sugary, deep fried, or processed foods. Eating a healthy, balanced diet will give your body the fuel it needs to take you safely to the finish line. Staying hydrated with water it also very important, but over-drinking during a race can dilute your electrolytes, so talk with your trainer or doctor to find the right amount of water you should be taking in. Being properly hydrated can also stave off heat exhaustion.
Don’t forget the right gear Your shoes can make or break you (literally). Without properly fitted shoes, the shock absorbed during running can damage the structure of your feet and put strain on your ankles, knees, and hips. You can also bruise your toes and lose your toenails with too snug shoes. Specialized running stores can typically guide you in selecting the right shoes. Always race with shoes that have been sufficiently broken in but aren’t worn out, and replace shoes every 300-500 miles.
Give yourself time to recover Whether you are recovering after each training run or recovering from a minor injury, taking time to rest is crucial to avoid injuring tired muscles and tendons. Including rest days in your training schedule—a prime time for cross training—will allow your body to bounce back after each run. If you experience pain during a run that causes you to alter your gait, do not push through it. Take a break from training and start again after the pain has resolved. Following the RICE method of rest, ice, compression, and elevation when you experience minor soft tissue injuries and easing back into your training schedule beginning at 50% can prevent more severe damage.
If you do get hurt, don't delay in getting seen and treated! The longer you wait, the longer it may take you to heal, and we're committed to getting you back on your feet and running again.
Dr. Chappell is a Utah Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine that prides himself on listening and being able to precisely determine your main pain generator. After obtaining a diagnosis, Dr. Chappell will share with you, possible treatment options and allow you to guide the treatment process. Given the correct diagnosis, and with a little well-directed intention, healing can occur, pain will diminish, and function will improve.