5 tips to avoid running injuries
After over 20 years of being a regular runner, and nearly 10 years as a physiotherapist working wih an athletic clientele, I have learned a lot about running injuries and injury prevention. As most runners end up hurt at some point, learning how to train smart can help you avoid the type injuries that take runners off the roads. Here are my 5 top tips to avoid running related injuries,
1) Start slow
I cannot stress this one enough! The vast majority of running injuries are what we call “overuse” injuries. What that means is that they aren’t due to falls or other trauma, but that they’re due to the repetitive nature of running and doing more than your body is ready for. Are you looking to start a running program? Start gradually! You should be running regularly but still giving your body time to rest between sessions. 3 sessions a week with a day off in between usually works well. You can try one of the myriade learn to run programs and apps that exist, or try starting with some run/walk intervals to ease into it. Here’s a good starting point for programs for new runners: https://www.runnersworld.com/training/a20810315/the-worlds-simplest-learn-to-run-program/
2) Increase your running volume slowly
This is really an extension of tip #1. Already comfortable running a few times a week and looking to increase your overall volume? Comfortable running a 5k and looking to progress to 10k and beyond? Add volume in gradually. A training error I see time and time again among people who are trying to run longer is by trying to make literally every run longer than the last. This is a great way to wear your body out and get hurt! Our bodies get stronger after we challenge them and rest. Rest allows our bodies to repair all the tiny muscle tears that happen when we exercise. A common pattern that most running plans follow is a couple of short runs per week and one longer run. If you’re trying to add volume, make sure every run of the week isn’t your long run. You should be doing some training runs that feel a little easy.
3) Introduce new training variables gradually
Are you comfortable running your usual routes and want to add some variety to your runs? Intervals, tempo runs, fartlek runs, hills and trails are all great elements to add to your routine to spice it up and keep training interesting. \
Here’s the best way to add these elements to your routine:
try adding 1 new workout each week, and if its the first time you’re trying hills for example, don’t do 25 repeats of the steepest hill you can find
When adding in a new training variable, take easy the first time you try it.
I can’t tell you the number of runners that I’ve treated in the clinic who ended up with Achille’s tendinopathy after getting overzealous with their hill training. As we mentioned earlier, the way to get stronger is to challenge the body with something new or difficult, then rest to allow recovery. Which brings me to my next tip…
Adequate rest is one of the most important injury prevention factors! Exercising creates microtears in our muscle fibres. When we rest those microtears heal, the muscle adapts to be able to withstand the forces that created those tears in the first place and gets stronger. Without adequate rest, the muscles and other tissues don’t have a chance to heal and adapt and over time, they fail, and we end up injured.
For people just starting out running, I always recommend running 1 day on, 1 day off. For more seasoned runners who are used to training several days a week, sometimes only 1 day off is sufficient. In all cases, listening to your body is key, and if you feel like you need a skip a workout, skip it, or do another, more gentle activity like yoga or swimming. Which brings me to my next point….
5) Don’t run through the pain
If you are still feeling some aches and pains when you run that don’t resolve after the first few minutes of your warm-up, take the day off! Running through it never helped anyone get better and is a wonderful way to end up injured.
Here are some good rules of thumb for when you should come in and get that “little twinge” checked out:
if it is a joint that hurts
if the pain is present when running and doesn’t resolve in the first few minutes of your run
if it also hurts when you are NOT running
if the pain is bad enough to make you change your running gait.
If any of these statements are true, come in and get checked out. Many long-term issues can be prevented by addressing strength and flexibility deficits early on, before they become an issue.
Those are my top tips for preventing running-related injuries. If, like 65-80% of runners, you do get injured running, know that help is available! There is a lot we can do to get you back on the roads, trails or treadmills. Have an injury that you need looked at, or are starting a training program and want to make sure you’re on the right track? Make an appointment to see me at Physiothérapie Avantex and we’ll get you ready to run.