Do you have ‘injury prevention’ as part of your running plan? Running is great when it’s going well but injuries are miserable. Most runners don’t think about how to prevent running injuries and just gleefully run, run, run without giving it a second thought. There are some simple things you can do to run without getting injured and make sure you’re taking part and not spectating with envy.
Here are my 8 top tips for avoiding running injuries:
1. Train gradually. It’s tempting but don’t get carried away and suddenly bump up your miles. Even seasoned runners can fall into this trap. Avoid ramping up the frequency, duration and intensity of your running too quickly. Your body needs time to adapt to what you’re asking of it. This is especially important when you’re returning to running after illness or a long time off.
2. Prioritise recovery. Make sure you plan both rest days and easier weeks in your training plan. Leave recovery time after races and definitely don’t come back too soon after a previous injury. The body repairs and strengthens itself when you rest; it’s crucial for healthy running and injury prevention. Find out what works for you but you’ll pay for it if you skimp on quality recovery.
3. Don’t ignore niggles. Recurrent niggles can turn into injuries. Read here for my advice on how to tell whether something is a niggle or an injury. Don’t put your head in the sand, get seen and get sorted. You’ll be out of running for longer if you don’t take action.
4. Don’t just run. Running is wonderful but it’s not the only thing you should do. You need all-over body strength to be a healthy runner. Cross-train with other sports. Do plenty of balance and co-ordination exercises. Do regular strength and conditioning work on all muscles but especially your core and glutes. Not only will these things help prevent injury but they’ll benefit your running too.
5. Work on running technique. Injuries frequently happen because of poor technique, posture and running gait. You can make simple changes to your running posture (see my recent blog) but you’d be wise to seek specialist help from a sports physiotherapist to assess you personally and work on your weaknesses when it comes to running form. This is more important than what shoes you wear but investing in a pair that’s right for your feet can help too.
6. Warm up well. Do more than just run slowly for the first mile! Get those muscles activating, get the synovial fluid in your joints flowing and importantly, get those nerves from your brain to your position sensors working. If you’ve warmed up your nervous system there’s less chance of you stumbling or going over on your ankle. It’s five to ten minutes well spent.
7. Eat well. An often forgotten essential, a good diet will give your body the building blocks it needs to heal and strengthen itself. It will also make sure you have plenty of energy to run. Recurrent injuries are more common in people that are persistently energy deficient.
8. Look for other triggers. When do your injuries occur? Sometimes there can be hormonal links such as at a certain time in the menstrual cycle, during peri-menopause and in pregnancy. Having self-awareness can help you to adapt what you do to continue to run healthily.
Do you struggle with recurrent injuries? Has there been an underlying cause for you? I’d love to know, leave me a comment here or on social media.
There’s lots of advice and more tips to avoid injury for runners of every level in my book Run Well: Essential health questions and answers for runners. Published by Bloomsbury and available to buy now.