5 Important Tips for Reducing Your Likelihood of Running Injury

Running is one of the most beneficial and rewarding forms of exercise. However, runners are also predisposed to injury. More than half of all runners report at least one physical issue each year.  

Many of these injuries could be avoided with a bit of caution and smarter training. Running puts a lot of physical stress on the body. Each time your foot strikes the ground, your leg must absorb two or even three times your body weight in stress. Luckily, the body adapts well to stress, but only when applied in relatively small doses. Too much stress at once will result in injury, so it is important to remain mindful of how much you are running, the conditions you’re running in, and any pre-existing issues that may predispose you to injury.  

The following are some additional key tips to keep in mind to help prevent running injuries.  

  1. Spend some time on strength training.  

Runners often underestimate the importance of strength training. The truth is that few strategies are as good as strength training in terms of protecting our bodies from damage. Stronger muscles absorb more of the impact of gravity and keep joints aligned when they are under stress. The muscles particularly important for runners include the hip flexors, glutes, hamstrings, and quads. Researchers have still not figured out the optimal way for runners to weight train, but high-repetition sets with light weight have been shown to reduce strain on joints. You may want to consider exercises that use your own body weight as resistance, such as lunges and squats. 

  1. Listen closely to what your body says.  

The activity of running inevitably involves some discomfort. After all, building endurance means withstanding the aches and pains of lactic acid in the muscles. At the same time, some aches and pains are simply different from others, so it is important to listen to your body when it is trying to tell you that something is off.  

A good rule of thumb is that any ache or pain causing you to alter how you typically move your body needs to be investigated. When you start to hobble and run in a way that is different from your normal, that may signal a serious issue that could get worse if left untreated. Get the issue checked out and, more importantly, follow through with recommendations because a repeat injury could lead to permanent issues. 

  1. Buy the right shoes to support you.  

Running shoes are a key investment for runners of all kinds. Shoes function as a cushion between your body and the ground and can significantly cut down on the impact on your body—and the stress it experiences. The majority of runners buy shoes based on price and recommendations from peers, not to mention comfort. However, comfort can be difficult to judge at first. Studies have shown that no specific type of running shoe can significantly reduce injury. In other words, it is a very personal choice. Therefore, it is best to try on several options and see what feels best. Since shoes tend to wear differently, this is often a process of trial and error. Once you find the right choice, stick with it. 

  1. Treat your muscles as they deserve.  

Experienced runners recognize that the recovery from a run is just as important as the exercise itself. Without proper recovery, you risk overuse injury. Furthermore, your performance will only diminish when you don’t give your muscles time to regenerate. Proper recovery starts with rest, but it also includes adequate hydration and getting lots of sleep, as well as eating the right foods to support your body. If your muscles are particularly tight or sore, spend some time giving them attention with alternating heat and ice, as well as massage. Invest in a foam roller or a massage gun to get into the tissue deeply. You can also consider topical cream for pain relief and over-the-counter medications if the soreness is inhibitive.  

  1. Change it up.  

You will certainly injure your body if you push it too hard and expose it to too much stress at once, as explained above. To that end, choose one thing to focus on at a time as you train. If you want to increase your speed, then keep running the same distance as you strive for a faster time. However, if you want to go farther, then do not expect your average time to go down simultaneously. When you attempt to do both, you will push your body too hard and end up setting yourself back with an injury. You can focus on each, moving back and forth, to achieve both goals much more effectively than if you attempted both at the same time. Make a plan and stick to it rather than pushing yourself to achieve more than expected.

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