A runner’s worst enemy isn’t the weather, a solo long run, the ruthless competition, or even a missed PR. The one thing that every runner fears is being sidelined from running due to an injury.
Yes, the dreaded “i” word. No one wants to be injured, but few of us do everything in our power to prevent injuries from happening. Of course some injuries are spontaneous, but the majority of running injuries stem from overuse. This means there are plenty of actions we can take to reduce the risk of getting hurt.
Take the following steps to ward off injuries:
- Train wisely. You’ve probably heard of the “terrible toos”. Running too much, too soon, or too hard can be a recipe for disaster. Increase your mileage gradually — most experts say to only up mileage by 10 percent each week –, take enough rest days, and don’t go all out on every run.
- Get fitted for proper shoes. Once you have a make and model that work, replace them every 300 to 500 miles.
- Vary running surfaces. If you train on a track regularly, don’t run in the same direction for each workout.
- Get strong. If all you do is run, chances are your muscles are imbalanced. Over time, muscle weaknesses can cause injury. Every runner’s weak spots are different, and it can be tricky to tell what yours are based on previous injuries. For example, the knee pain you had may have stemmed from a tight IT band, which may have been caused by tight glutes. Most runners have weaknesses in the back, hips, glutes, hamstrings, and/ or ankles. Doing the following exercises can help keep these areas strong:
- Back. Regular core work – like planks, bridges, and crunches – can help strengthen your back.
- Hips and glutes. Squats, side lunges, and this exercise routine can keep your hips and glutes strong.
- Hamstrings. Lunges and this gym workout routine can remedy weak hamstrings.
- Ankles. One-legged stability exercises and the moves shown in this video can strengthen weak ankles.
- Stretch and roll it out. It’s normal to feel aches, minor pains, and tightness after intense or long runs. Taking some time after each run to stretch and foam roll problem areas can go a long way in preventing injuries. Try these wonderful yoga poses geared just towards runners, too.
- Back off at the first sign of injury. Taking time off as soon as you notice something amiss can keep a minor injury from turning into a major problem. True, backing off running could throw a wrench in your upcoming race plans, but try to look at the big picture. It’s better to take a few weeks off to let an angry IT band heal instead of allowing it to become a stress fracture and needing to take months or a year off instead.
Are you an injury-prone runner? How do you plan to keep injuries at bay this year?
Written by Jen Matz