Running is one of the best sports you can choose when starting an exercise program. It can be performed nearly anywhere and the competitors are friendly and helpful. Unfortunately, there are common running injuries that can slow you down or stop you for weeks or months.
Running is an excellent standalone sport and is also the perfect cross-training for other sports. Luckily, the most common running injuries are avoidable with a little work so they do not need to slow you down or stop you. Keep reading to learn how to avoid the most common injuries as you pound the pavement to a healthier, happier you.
What Are Common Running Injuries?
The University of Calgary discovered that 57% of all knee pain in runners is caused by Runner's knee. You may have Runner's knee if you have tenderness or pain in or around the kneecap. See a doctor if you experience twinges on the inside or outside of your knee when you start to run. This condition may flare up during or after long periods of sitting.
Your hamstrings are the driving force behind your sprints. To keep your hamstrings propelling you up hills with ease, stretch them every day to stay limber and perform resistance exercises once or twice a week to build strength. If you pull a hamstring, you will be put out of commission for a long time. This recovery period often includes rehabilitation therapy and a slow return to activity.
Talk to your doctor if you experience chronic tightness or achiness in your hamstrings during your run. If you feel the need to shorten your stride or reduce your pace, you may be at risk of a bruise, pop, or snap.
Foot pain accounts for an astonishing 15% of all reported running injuries. Plantar fasciitis tops this list. This injury is characteristic of inflammation and small tears of the ligaments and tendons in your feet. This causes dull, achy pain and you may experience bruising along your heel or arch.
See a doctor if you experience pain as soon as you get out of bed, within the first few strides of your run, or immediately when you begin to walk after sitting. The sooner you talk to a doctor, the sooner you can treat this condition and prevent it from getting worse.
Shin splints, also referred to as medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS), may be the most common running injury of all. This single injury accounts for 15% of all running injuries and involves tears that occur around your shinbone and it can quickly develop into something serious.
See a doctor if you can walk or jump with no pain but feel tight or achy shins when you run. It is important to schedule an appointment before your shins feel tender to the touch or sensitive when you walk. If you are proactive, treating shin splints is simple.
Stress fractures are the most serious of any running injury you could suffer from. These are caused by constant impact causing excessive strain on your heel bones, shins, or feet. In contrast to acute fractures which happen instantaneously, stress fractures happen gradually. Thus, they are preventable.
Speak to a doctor if you experience pain when you are on your feet for extended periods or when you run. As with any other progressive injury, being in tune with your body and responding to your pain early is crucial for avoiding serious injury. A physical therapist will help ensure you are on the right track to avoiding or recovering from a running injury.
IT Band Syndrome
IT, or ilitobial, band syndrome affects the band running along your outer thigh. It connects your knee and shin to your hip and when it gets irritated, runners suffer from pain down the outside of their knee joint. This accounts for 12% of all running injuries, and it is commonly mistaken for a knee injury.
Talk to a doctor if you begin to experience tightness or pain on the outside of your knee within the first mile of your run. If the pain dissipates once you walk it out, seeing a physical therapist is critical. This indicates you have IT band syndrome, and the band may snap against your joint if left untreated.
Does Running On Pavement Cause More
Running on pavement causes fewer injuries than running on treadmills. Trail running, on the other hand, causes fewer running injuries than running on the pavement. The general consensus among sports experts is you should vary the surface you run on unless you are training for a sport that happens on only one surface.
For example, if you play basketball, running on the basketball court is ideal. However, if you are a runner, or simply into general physical fitness, mix up trail running with running on pavement, grass, and treadmills.
Benefits Of Treadmills
Treadmills can be advantageous for runners if used correctly. Treadmills allow for you to track your heart rate easily. You can even track your blood pressure. This is critical if you have a heart condition. However, it prevents overexercise in everyone.
Treadmill running strikes a decent balance between soft (sand, track, or loosely packed trail running) and hard (asphalt or concrete) running. Many treadmill belts are designed with a certain level of sponginess to help prevent running injuries.
Benefits Of Trail Running
If you are fortunate enough to live near trails, there are numerous benefits you can reap from running on them. Most trails are free, unlike a treadmill or gym membership. They are accessible to everyone, including people who are just starting to run. Trail running strengthens your muscles, joints, and tendons more than running on the road and also does more to improve your balance.
Benefits Of Running On Concrete Or Asphalt
Running on asphalt is ideal for runners training for a race that will be held on asphalt. This gives you a feel for what the course will be like. It is also ideal for individuals with Achilles tendonitis as the sturdy surface helps to keep your Achilles tendon relaxed. Concrete running is great for people who have access to sidewalks because it is safer than running in the road and still keeps your Achilles tendon relaxed.
How To Avoid Common Running Injuries
Fortunately, there are many simple steps you can take to prevent these common running injuries. These include remaining limber, strengthening your muscles, and staying adequately hydrated. Let's take a closer look.
Maintain And Improve Your Flexibility
Flexibility is key in avoiding common running injuries. Warm your muscles up for 10 minutes before stretching. Gently and slowly stretch all your extremities and joints. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds. For the best results, incorporate dynamic exercises specific to your sport. Examples include arm circles, bounding, cross-body arm swings, high knee drills, and skipping.
Incorporate Strength Training
Strength training enhances your overall athleticism and body strength. This reduces injuries and poor performance caused by muscular fatigue. Runners should lift weights two to three times weekly. Include all muscle groups in your strength training including the trunk and upper body.
Hill running, plyometrics, and lifting weights are all great ways to build strength. The pre-season and offseason should be when you focus on increasing your strength, while you should focus on maintaining your strength during your running season.
Eat A Well-Balanced Diet And Stay Hydrated
Dehydration and heat stroke are prevented by hydrating two hours before your practice or race. Drink 16 to 20 ounces of fluids such as water or coconut water before your warm-up. After your warm-up, drink another 8 to 10 ounces of fluids. You do not need to drink sports drinks until you sweat significantly because excessive sweating leads to electrolyte imbalances. However, most people can maintain peak training performance with water or water and a little salt.
Drink six to eight fluid ounces for every 15 to 20 minutes of exercise you perform. Re-hydrate within two hours of your exercise with 20 to 24 ounces for every pound you lose during exercise. Before, during, and after exercise, drink a chilled 4 to 8% carbohydrate solution.
Warm Up And Cool Down before and after Every Run
Warm up for five to 10 minutes before a run to rid your muscles of built up lactic acid. This prevents DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). The longer your run, the longer you need to warm up.
Cross-Train And Get Plenty of Rest
Getting plenty of rest is hard for a lot of runners. A common misconception is the harder you work, the better your results will be. Who wasn't told the old adage, "no pain, no gain," growing up? To prevent injuries, your body needs plenty of time to rest.
Schedule at least one day a week of "no exercise." You can still walk your dog around the block, but do not elevate your heart rate. Cross-training allows you to maintain or improve your cardiovascular and pulmonary health without putting too much stress on your joints or overworking your muscles. Great examples of cross-training for running include rowing, cycling, skiing, and swimming.
Periodize Your Training Schedule With Progression
The foundation of your running performance is good aerobic activity. Slowly prepare your body to handle more rigorous workouts through periodization and progression. Do not increase your mileage more than 10% a week. If you ran 10 miles this week, do not run more than 10.5 or 11 miles per week.
If you are brand new to running, increase your mileage every second week. Once you feel comfortable adding mileage regularly, add five to 10 minutes to one of your weekly runs.
Periodization and progression are both important to safe running. Periodization refers to increasing your training stress from week to week within your training program.
The progression of your intensity and volume should not be steady. Rather, opt for a staircase progression. Focus on increasing volume one week and intensity the next week.
Have A Running Expert Analyze Your Training Program
A fitness coach or running expert can analyze your training program to ensure you are not at risk of injury. Overtraining results in poor performance, shin splints, and many other running injuries. A good running coach can ensure your training program keeps you safe and helps you meet all your goals.
Wear The Correct Footwear
No two pairs of running shoes are the same. Depending on the structure of your foot, the surface you run on regularly, and your running form, you may need a different type of shoe than your mother, brother, or the captain of your running club.
Most triathlon or running shoe stores have special equipment that analyzes your gait to determine the best footwear for you. Pronation is the degree to which your foot rolls inward when your foot strikes the ground and transitions into pushing you back off the ground. Abnormal pronation can lead to serious injuries if your ankles are not adequately supported.
Have A Formal Gait Analysis
A podiatrist can formally analyze your gait and determine if your feet have poor biomechanics such as a very flexible or rigid foot arch, excessive pronation, or heel strike when you run. Most runners find they can prevent common running injuries with a little work on their form or a well-designed shoe. However, sometimes a special orthotic will need to be made to provide your feet with the support they need.
There is no need for avoidable common running injuries like plantar fasciitis, stress fractures, IT band syndrome, or shin splints to slow you down or stop you. To protect yourself from injury, vary the surfaces you run on if you are not training for a specific sport on turf or a court. Wear the correct footwear for your foot type and running style and get expert help with your training program. Training programs should incorporate a volume increase every week or two and a slow progression of intensity.
Whether you run on sand, on a trail, on a track, or in the grass, the right shoes for your foot structure and gait are important. Seek expert help and contact a doctor right away if you experience concerning pain. Happy running!