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5 tips to avoid running injuries

5 tips to avoid running injuries

Written by Nathan Switkowski | 11th November 2020

Running is a great form of exercise to improve your fitness, maintain a healthy weight, and boost your mood and overall wellbeing. There are many benefits of running which reduce your risk of disease, such as cardiovascular disease and osteoarthritis. However, many runners are prone to developing injuries, such as shin splints, patella tendonitis, stress fractures, and lower back pain. Injury prevention is very important regardless of the type of runner you are, whether you are training for an event such as a marathon or just enjoy getting out for a run once or twice per week. Below are 5 tips for runners to avoid injury.

1. Warm Up

Warming up before you commence your run can help improve performance and prevent acute or overuse injuries. It allows your muscles, bones and joints to loosen up and elevates your heart rate so your body is able to cope with the demands once you start running. An example of a good warm-up would include walking for 5 minutes and performing some dynamic stretches before you set off on your run. See the short video below for some examples of dynamic stretching for your legs.

Video Thumbnail

2. Resistance Training

Including some strengthening, in the form of resistance training can greatly improve your running form and reduce risk of injuries. Exercises should be focused on the hip and core abdominal muscles to provide more stability and power when you run, while also maintaining appropriate lower limb biomechanics. These exercises should be performed on the days where you don’t run. See below 2 examples of strengthening exercises to improve hip and core-abdominal strength.

Gluteal Bridge with Theraband Running Blog

Gluteal Bridge with Theraband

Lie on your back with your knees bent, keep your feet flat on the floor about hip width apart. Place the Theraband above your knees around your thighs. Squeeze your buttocks as you push through your heels to lift your hips and pelvis off the ground. Lift up until you create a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Try to avoid arching through the lower back. Aim to perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions.

Dead Bug Running Blog

Dead Bug

Lie on your back with your legs elevated, knees at 90 degrees and your arms straight pointing up to the roof. Simultaneously, lower one leg as you lower the opposite arm so both are just off the floor. Maintain some tension through your abdominal muscles as you return to neutral before performing on the other side. Aim to perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions.

3. Distance Progression

Too much, too soon – a very common issue that runners will experience. You need to slowly progress your distance and speed when you run, as well as the frequency. The body needs time to adapt from training changes and jumps in distance or intensity. Muscles and joints need recovery time so they can recover and handle more training demands. If you overload and rush that process, you could break down rather than build up. Aim to build your weekly distance up by a maximum of 10%, however, even this progression may be too aggressive, instead increase by 3% or 5%. For example, if you were running 5km twice per week, and aiming to participate in a 10km fun run in 10 week’s time, you may want to increase each week's distance by 500 metres (an increase of 5% each week).

4. Refuel and Recover

Recovery, from a nutrition standpoint, is essential after a run. Within 30-60 minutes of your run, you should be aiming to refuel your body with a nutritious meal. This window of opportunity allows the body to rebuild and repair muscles, and restock your glycogen levels. This will help to reduce post-exercise soreness and risk of injury. This meal should primarily be made up of carbohydrates, with a portion of protein. Some examples include a chicken and salad sandwich, Greek yogurt with fruit, or porridge with a handful of nuts.

5. Listen To Your Body

Pay attention to how your body is feeling, know your limits and do not ignore those painful warning signs. These signs could be that niggle in your hip, that ache in your knee, or that tightness underneath your foot. Take a few days rest and try some self-treatment strategies to reduce your soreness or tightness, such as foam rolling, spikey ball self-release or application of heat or ice. If your ailment won’t go away or you are unsure how to manage your pain, seek advice and treatment from a health professional.

If you would like support regarding your running, the team at Canterbury Health Hub are here to support you. Book an appointment online today.