Even though running is a great way to improve your fitness and stay fit, it also runs the risk of certain injuries. Most of the time, it is beginner runners who end up injuring themselves as they are inexperienced and don’t take things like warming up as seriously as they should do. This problem isn’t just one for beginners, though – some experts believe that around 79% of runners end up taking some time off from their training schedules.
So, if you don’t want to end up with an injured leg for a month or so, it’s important that you are careful with your running. To make sure you look after yourself when you are out pounding the streets, here is everything you need to know in order to prevent any running injuries.
Always Warm Up And Cool Down
No matter what kind of sport you do, it is always necessary to warm up and cool down. Whether you are going to shoot some hoops in a basketball match or are going to the gym to do a fitness class, you always need to get your muscles ready for action. And this is also the case with running. Ideally, your warm-up session should involve some light cardio and stretches, but it shouldn’t be too strenuous. After all, you don’t want to use up all of your energy before you have even started your main exercise! After you have been for your run, you then need to cool down. This is necessary as it can help your heart rate and breathing come back to their regular rates. Not only that, though, but it will also prevent any blood from pooling in your muscles. If you fail to warm up and cool down, then you are increasing the chance of straining yourself and pulling a muscle. Not cooling down enough will also help save you from any cramp and painful muscles after your run.
Don’t Push Yourself Too Hard
When many beginners take up running, they often find it difficult to figure out what their ideal pace is. As a result, they can often run way too fast, which can be too much for their muscles to take. It is very important to start off slowly so that you know your muscles can cope with the impact and pressure. Once you get used to a pace and start to find it too slow, you can slowly increase your speed. It is also crucial to increase your weekly mileage very slowly as well. Before you do increase your mileage and speed, you need to correctly prepare the body for all the extra stress. This means you need to work on your cardio to ensure that you are up for all the extra aerobic activity. But you also need to concentrate on your muscles as well. Otherwise, you could end up pulling a muscle or developing shin splints. One general rule of thumb is to increase your mileage by 10%. Then, once you are comfortable with this increase, you can continue to increase it by a further 10%. If you struggle to work out how much 10% is, you might find it useful to download a running app. There are many that have training plans for beginners and aim to get them running 10 kilometers within a set period of time.
Get The Right Gear
Did you know that your running shoes could be the cause of your running injuries? There are certain ones that are considered the best running shoes for women, and it is worth looking through these to find a pair. But you also need to make sure that the pair you choose are suitable for the way you run. When we run, we each have a slightly different gait which causes us to each land on our feet differently. It’s important that your pair of running shoes cushions and support the part of your foot that takes the most stress from hitting the floor. For example, if you tend to land on your heel, you should get some shoes that have plenty of support in the heel and ankle of the shoe. Whereas you will need a shoe that is well supported in the front half if you tend to land toe-first. Running in the wrong type of shoe will increase your chance of suffering from shin splints. These develop after repeated stress on the shins, and cause shooting pain up the legs. They often result in runners taking a month off running to let their shins heal.
Improve Your Flexibility
You might think that just concentrating on running will help your performance when you are out on the track. Makes sense, right? But, in actual fact, you should also do some exercising that will help to improve and maintain your flexibility. One of the easiest ways to do this is to make sure you stretch every day. However, you will need to do some physical activity before you do your stretching as stretching cold muscles could cause them to strain. Simply jogging on the spot for 20 seconds will be enough to warm the muscles up for a stretch. Lots of runners also find that taking regular Yoga and Pilates classes are also very useful for improving flexibility. Keeping flexible won’t just reduce your risk of injuries, but it will also help to improve your overall performance as well.
Work On Your Strength
As well as flexibility, you should also work on your body’s strength. That’s because an improved strength will help your muscles to work for longer and harder without going into a state of fatigue. And that means they will be better protected against common injuries such as strains and tears. One of the main mistakes some runners make when they are working on their strength is to just improve the strength in their legs. Even if these are the main muscles you use while running, you should still aim to improve your core and arm muscle strength as well. If you don’t already do any strength training, you might like to try weightlifting and plyometrics.
Get Your Gait Analyzed
I’ve already touched on the fact that we all have different gaits when we run. This affects how we land on our feet while running, and, unfortunately, a poor gait can sometimes lead to injuries. Thankfully, there is something you can do about this! As well as making sure that you have the correct footwear, as already mentioned, you should also see about getting a formal gait analysis. During this analysis, a running expert will watch you run on a treadmill and see how your body moves. From this, they will be able to advise you on the best type of shoes you should wear. They will also be able to provide you with some orthotic inserts for your shoes if they think that they can help you during your runs. They might also be able to provide you with some advice that can help you improve your posture while you run. Changing your posture can significantly change the balance of weight in your body while you run, which can help you land better on your feet.
Stay Well Hydrated During Training
Another reason why runners end up damaging their body is that they don’t drink enough water before and during their runs. This is especially important on hot days as the body can easily succumb to heat exhaustion when it is put under physical stress. For the best results, you need to start hydrating your body at least two hours before you go out to run. Experts then agree that you should aim to take in about 8 ounces of water during the run. Your body will also need plenty of fluids once you have finished exercising so that it can rehydrate. For this most reason, most professionals aim to drink a pint of water within an hour of completing their workout. This is something that amateur runners should aim to do as well.
Remember To Rest
Resting is just as important as the exercising itself! In fact, if you don’t factor in enough rest days into the week, you could end up pushing your body beyond its limits and might end up suffering from injuries. For beginner runners, you should have at least three rest days each week. Once your body starts to develop and gets used to your training sessions, you can then start to take just two rest days a week. These rest days are crucial as it gives your body time to recover from all of the strenuous exercise that it has been though. This is also the time when your muscles get stronger, so if you don’t rest up enough, you might find that there is very little improvement in your overall running performance.
Running injuries are extremely frustrating and, in some extreme cases, they can end up to be quite serious indeed. But if you remember all of this great advice while you are out running, you shouldn’t have too much to worry about!
Ally Gonzales is the founder & editor-in-chief of RunningSoleGirl. Along with blogging she is also juggling attending college and majoring in Exercise and Sports Science with a Sports Management minor.