Knowing how to prevent running injuries is a must for all runners, whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been hitting the trails for many years.
The repetitive strain caused by running can easily lead to injury, and the pounding taken by your whole body presents a problem for runners of all ages. Increasing the volume as you get better at running – regardless of your level – really turns up the strain on your body.
Here are some easy ways to prevent injuries and stay healthy and fit while running.
How to prevent running injuries – 5 effective tips
1. Increase volume gradually
There’s a reason why there are so many running training plans out there which advise a gradual increase in volume.
Don’t listen to those who say they run 6 miles every day, without any rest days. That’s just a recipe for disaster, especially if you don’t bear in mind that everyone is built differently.
Being consistent with your training is a great idea. Make sure you follow a plan – even if it’s one you drew up yourself. Ensure you include one or two rest days a week, and train consistently.
Doing this is the key to avoiding those running injuries which can put you out of action for weeks or even months.
Finally, think of the big picture: what’s your goal? Are you training for a specific distance or just to improve your speed? Depending on your goals, work backwards to where you are today and allow yourself to progress gradually.
As a general rule of thumb, increasing your running each week by no more than 10% is a good way to prevent injuries.
2. Strengthen your core
One of your body’s key supportive mechanisms to your running is your core. A strong core will help you prevent running injuries by eliminating poor postural habits which over time can put strain on your joints.
Make sure you include one or two sessions per week dedicated to strengthening your core. They don’t need to be any longer than 20-30 minutes, and again, start slowly and gradually increase the number of repetitions and difficulty.
Stability ball sit-ups
These help stretch out your abs as you lie back and are also gentle on your lower back. They’re great for improving balance as well. Start with 3 sets of 10 repetitions, and increase to 12-16 reps as you get stronger.
Balancing on a stability ball
Once you’ve done your sit-ups, sit on the ball and try and balance yourself without letting your feet touch the ground. Take it easy at the start and aim for 30 seconds, then increase time on the ball as you get more comfortable.
Alternate leg extensions
This is a great exercise for your lower abs. Keep your lower back flat on the mat and your legs bent in the air at a 90-degree angle, then lower one at a time, being careful not to touch the floor, while keeping the other leg in place. To make it slightly harder, lift your neck and head in a “traditional” sit-up position while you do this. Do 3 sets of 10 reps and increase as you get stronger.
Nothing beats a classic plank for strengthening your core overall, and this will go a long way towards helping you prevent running injuries.
Try to keep the plank position for 30 seconds to begin with, then progress 10 seconds at a time. Add side planks to improve your balance and strengthen your obliques – 30 seconds on each side and progress from there.
Lower back extensions
Your core also includes your back so don’t neglect it! You can either do 3 sets of 10-12 reps or hold the extension for 30 seconds and then increase that duration as you get stronger.
3. Don’t neglect these key injury-prevention exercises
Beyond core strength, which will help with your balance and posture, ensuring you are running injury-free, these key exercises you can do at home will help strengthen your lower body. Having a strong lower body will make you a stronger and faster runner, as well as help you to avoid injury.
Do these exercises once or twice a week, either at the same time as your core exercises, or a separate session. Start with 2 sets of 10 reps, then progress to 12 and 16 reps. Afterwards, you can try 3×10 and so on.
The glutes are the strongest and largest muscles in your body and are absolutely essential for effective running. Having strong glutes can prevent many of the common injuries sustained through running.
Strengthen them by doing glute raises. Later you can progress to holding the bridge position for 10-12 seconds and gradually longer.
Finally, while holding the bridge position, lift one foot off the ground keeping your legs in the same position, and straighten that top leg. Keep this for 3 seconds then return to the bridge. Alternate for 10 reps, and increase gradually.
Do body weight squats, concentrating on your form. Squats are a great workout for the whole leg, increasing your quad strength which will take pressure off your knees and ensure you’re running healthy.
Do these without weight as well, one set forward and one set stepping backward. Adding a mini resistance band makes the exercise more difficult and activates your hip and glute muscles.
4. Get the right kit
There’s no doubt about it, investing in a good pair of running shoes is one of the best ways to avoid getting injured. Running in your old beat up pair of gym sneakers may cut it if you’re just going for the occasional slow jog. But if you’re a serious runner, specialist footwear is essential.
A decent pair of running shoes, like the ASICS Gel-Kayano 28, might not be cheap but they consistently come out on top in reviews by professional runners who love them for their comfort and protective cushioning.
Once you find the right shoes for you, ensure you’re not overusing them. Rather than look for a specific number of miles run, our advice is to check the wear and tear on them to see when they need replacing. The lugs on the soles are a good indication. Also, check the cushioning especially at your heels – it’s a good indication of how worn the shoes are.
5. The best way to avoid running injuries? Listen to your body!
The final, and best, piece of advice is simple: listen to the signals your body is sending you. Rest when you need to, and adjust your training accordingly. If you need to skip a session, you may find that does wonders for your motivation and strength the following day.
Don’t train when you’re feeling a little under the weather. Be patient and consistent with your training, and you’ll be running longer, stronger and injury-free.
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