I am an avid runner who has run almost every kind of race including sixteen ultras. I also coached cross-country running for many years, so I have learned many ways to avoid injuries.
The following are some easy ways to prevent injury from running.
- Invest in the right shoes. Shoes that are good for someone who runs ten miles a week can be the source of injury for someone who runs more than that. There are also a lot of shoes that are advertised as running shoes that are also only good for extremely limited mileage. This can be a problem for new runners who do not know what to look for in a shoe. Many injuries can be prevented with good shoes, so it makes sense to do your homework before buying. My best advice would be to find someone knowledgeable who can help you make the right choice. This might be the salesperson in your local sports store or a veteran runner who can give you sage advice. There is a foot test that you can do yourself to determine what kind of arch you have which will determine what kind of shoe you need. Wet your foot slightly and step on a piece of paper or concrete, the less of your foot that you can see the higher your arch is.
- Run softly. I always cringe when I hear someone’s feet slamming on the treadmill or the track. Running softly without too much impact will prevent many injuries. Running downhill is a time to remember this because many people lose form and begin to impact much harder than they need to as they race downhill. This could mean developing shin splints for the next day. Let your feet skim above the ground.
- Run like a rag doll. Run with your entire body relaxed as if there isn’t a bone in your body. Many runners tense up when they run, but the advantage of running relaxed is that your body can compensate easier when something happens such as your foot hitting the uneven ground or a stone. It also means less cramping in areas like the shoulders. It also should be more pleasant to run as if all the tension has been drained out of you.
- Weight train. Weight training will protect your muscles from injury. Runners need to remember that opposite muscles support each other. An example of this would be working on strong stomach muscles to protect your back from injury.
- Rest when necessary. If you have an injury, take time off to let it heal to ensure that you only miss a day or two of running instead of a longer period of time. Also, follow a hard day with an easy day to let your body recover.
- Take care of yourself. Eat well, drink plenty and sleep enough. The body needs fuel, hydration, and rest to run well, so do not risk hurting yourself by denying your body of its basic needs.
- Stretch. I didn’t do much stretching until my fifties when suddenly, it became something that I had to do to stay flexible and injury-free.
- Don’t do too much too soon. When you start a new routine, it’s normal to want to jump in with both feet, but you will be able to perform better if you work into higher mileage gradually.
Have this runner’s toolbox to help prevent injury.
· A foam roller
This is a round piece of foam that is used to roll out aches and pains. They can be found at most stores including Wal-Mart and Target. Position the roller under the aching muscle and roll back and forth on top of it. It is fairly painful but a great way to help your muscles recover.
- The stick
This is used for the same thing as the roller, but it is easier to use. It looks like a long baton, and you just run it over the muscles.
- A tennis ball
This can be used for the same things as the stick and the roller, but it is more portable. It works great on sore shoulders too.
- Elastic bands/resistance bands
You can buy pieces of elastic and use them to strengthen your legs. Put them around your feet and do leg lifts. You can also use them for arm exercises. You can also use resistance bands to stretch.
- Compression socks/sleeves
Compression socks and sleeves can aid in recovery, and they are also helpful during running. You can also find sleeves for things like sore it bands.
- Balance board
Balance is an important health component and balance boards can be fun. Once you think that you can keep the board steady, add something to it like bouncing a tennis ball off the wall and catching it while keeping your balance. You can buy them at almost all department or running stores.
- Epsom salts
These are placed in the bath to help soothe sore muscles.
If you are doing a high intensity or a long run it’s a good idea to carry something to eat with you. You can choose from a variety of bars, energy waffles, or gels. Find what you enjoy. Good nutrition can help you avoid injury too.
Running stores sell body glide that helps avoid chafing but Vaseline works just as well and it’s less expensive.
- Bio freeze
You will eventually experience sore muscles. Bio freeze can help keep you comfortable.
- A massager. Massaging out sore muscles is always a good idea.