Run smart. Run strong.

I’m often asked about injury prevention tips from runners. This will be the first in a series of posts where I’ll breakdown some common causes of injury, then share some tips that runners can bookmark and use.

solo-beach-run

What is an injury?

Stress that is placed on the body that prevents it from functioning properly.

Common causes:

  • overtraining
  • poor technique
  • muscle imbalance (weakness)
  • joint laxity
  • excessive load placed on the body
  • accidents

Let’s breakdown a few of these common causes.

Overtraining

This is a very common cause of injury to runners. Many runners often run at a high intensity too often. It doesn’t allow for your body to recovery and adapt properly to your workouts. Fatigue during a workout can then lead to injury.

Consider the 80/20 rule of training. 80% of your runs should be at an easy pace/lower intensity. While 20% of your runs you should be able to push your anaerobic threshold and run at a higher intensity. You should feel refreshed after most of your runs. If you find yourself feeling exhausted, or your legs feeling dead after most runs, you may be training too intensely.

Think about where you run also. Varying the surface and routine allows your muscles to adapt and strengthen. Mix it up; roads, trails, treadmill.

Whether you want to work on your endurance or speed, build gradually and be consistent with your training.

Technique

I’m not a qualified run coach, but having worked with some, and treating many runners, there are a few things you should look at for good running form. Check out resources like Runner’s World for more tips. If your running mechanics aren’t sound, you put yourself at risk for injury.

  • cadence/step rate
  • arm swing
  • good posture
  • stride length
  • land lightly

Warm-Up/Cool Down

How many of you do a warm-up before your run? One minor change that could make a big difference is adding both a warm-up and cool-down to your running workouts. Think of your runs as workouts. There should be structure to it. Warm-ups should consist of a few dynamic movements to warm up your joints and muscles to prepare them for the run. Then post run, taking some time to assess how your body feels and stretch out some spots of tension can help aid in your recovery.

Muscle Imbalances

You want to assess and work on your weakest links. Imbalances are usually around long before you begin to feel the symptoms of injury. Develop strength in multi-planar directions – working on rotation and lateral stability. You want to improve your body’s mechanics for longevity in the sport. Key areas to look at and work on for runners: hips and core.

Consider these aspects when working on strength training for running:

  • stability and control (balance)
  • mobility and flexibility
  • strength (of both muscles and tendons)

A 10 minute post-run routine is a simple way to begin working in each of those aspects. Including some staple movements like planks, lunges, squats and bridges. Begin adding some plyometrics to aid in tissue adaptation and tendon strength as you progress. Additional training like yoga, swimming or cycling are great ways to compliment your running.

Recovery

This is an area that many runners don’t give enough attention to.  Recovery is the process of returning your body to a state of normal. It restores and regenerates soft tissue and your immune system. What is the easiest form of recovery? Simple. SLEEP. Getting a quality nights sleep can go a long way to allowing your body to recover and work for you on your next workout. Learn to really listen to your body. Sometimes you may feel the need to take some extra rest, or do a form of active recovery. Mobility drills are perfect for your active recovery days as well as yoga, swimming or walking to take it easier on your body.

Final thoughts

Experiment with all these tips. See what works for you. Consistency in training is key. Plan it out, keep a log to help keep you on course. It’s always a good idea to seek professional help when needed from a certified trainer, run coach or health care professional. Common injuries may seem similar person to person, but can be quite unique and sometimes, that means treating it differently and what may have worked once, doesn’t work the same again.

A good friend gave me this quote once when talking about sport and injury prevention.

“Treat your body like a plant. It needs to be fed properly, watered properly and cared for correctly to thrive.”

 Photo credit: Erin Crossman Photography 

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