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Running Injury Prevention: Tips to Keep You on the Road 

Running is one of my favorite activities to stay fit and healthy. Getting out on the road or trail with a good podcast and my thoughts helps more than just my physical fitness, but my mental health as well. It’s a great way to relieve stress, get some fresh air, clear your head, and feel like you’ve accomplished something for the day. This past month and a half where I haven’t been able to run has reminded me of this all too well. With all of that, there still is the fact that running can also put a lot of stress on your body. Though not as common as the general public may think, injuries are common among runners, but with the right prevention strategies, that risk can be reduced, and you can keep running pain-free. In this blog, we’ll explore some tips for injury prevention that can help you stay on the road or trail. 

1. Proper footwear

Wearing the right shoes is crucial for injury prevention. That starts with a running shoe and not a shoe designed for other forms of exercise. While running shoes can get expensive you can always find last year’s models on sale for a pretty steep discount. To start, a pair of “daily trainers” will work for most of your runs. As you advance into more specific training you may look at developing a nice shoe rotation.  

Make sure you have shoes that are appropriate for your foot type and running style. Visiting your local running store is a great place to start. Most of us don’t need the special support shoes that are out there, but your local experts can assess your gait and determine the shoes that would best fit your style. 

Most importantly you need to replace your shoes regularly to ensure they provide adequate support and cushioning. Usually, this is between 300 and 450 miles, but that depends a lot on the shoe, where you run, and your weight. If you are starting to feel little niggles during your runs it might be time to get a new pair of shoes. Another good tip is that if you try on a new pair of shoes, and they feel like a completely different shoe with more cushion than you could imagine, you probably are way past due for new shoes. Note the miles for your next pair and adjust. One way to extend the life of your running shoes is to use them for running and running only. 

2. Gradual increases in weekly run duration

Gradually increasing your weekly run duration can help prevent injuries caused by overuse. Avoid making sudden increases in duration or intensity and listen to your body. A good rule of thumb is to not increase your time (your running based on time not miles, right?) More than 10% a week.  

Along these lines, your intensity should not jump up too dramatically, and never go much above 20% moderate to high intensity in a week. That means that about 80% of your runs should be at an easy pace (zone 1 or 2). This pace should be easy enough that you can carry on a conversation while you are running. Really, most beginners could benefit from doing closer to 100% of their runs at this easy pace to build their base before they move to more intense sessions.  

As with any type of exercise, if you feel pain or discomfort, take a break and allow your body to rest and recover.

3. Strength training

We here at Journey Virtual Fitness are huge proponents of strength training for all people. This goes double for endurance athletes. Strength training is often “forgotten”, or just refused by runners and triathletes. This is unfortunate because not only can it help immensely in your performance, but it is crucial in helping prevent injury. Incorporating strength training into your routine can help prevent injuries by building strength in your muscles, bones, and joints. 

Focus on exercises that target the muscles used in running, such as the hips, glutes, and core. These include your basic compound movements like squat and deadlift variations for your hips and glutes, and a myriad of core exercises to benefit your life in general. That being said don’t neglect your upper body especially as you start getting into longer distances. It’s shocking how tired your shoulders get as the miles pile up on your long run. The offseason is a good time to work on your “heavy“ lifting, and as your race gets close you can switch to lower-weight higher-rep workouts. 

4. Proper warm-up and cool-down

I have to admit this is an area that I struggle to be consistent with (Coach Mo is the Queen of this though). However, when I am consistent in my mobility game, I feel so much better. Doing a proper warm-up and cool-down can help prevent injuries by preparing your body for exercise and aiding in recovery. Your warm-up should consist of some dynamic stretching or mobility and then start your run slow. Most if not all of my runs start with a five-minute super easy jog before I slowly increase to the prescribed workout. 

Follow your run up with a cool down of walking for a few minutes followed by some static stretching (you know the only type of stretching we knew about as kids) and foam rolling. When I first tried a foam roller, I was blown away by how much it felt like it was relieving the tension in my body. Is it a placebo etc.? Maybe, but it makes me feel good. 

5. Rest and recovery

Rest and recovery are just as important as exercise for injury prevention. Make sure to take rest days and listen to your body. But more than that make sure you are recovering throughout the day. Proper sleep is immeasurable in your overall health and allows you to get up and train the next day. In addition to sleep limiting stress will aid in your recovery as well as your diet. After a run make sure you grab some protein and healthy carbs to refuel your body and assist in building the muscles back up you just destroyed on your run! My favorite post-run snack is a protein shake and peanut butter, banana, and honey sandwich on whole grain bread. It often helps get me out the door knowing it’s waiting for me at the end of the run. 

Anecdotally, I have found that a good pair of recovery slides are amazing! I got a pair during my last half-marathon training, and my legs were so much happier after my long runs. Most of them are pretty ugly, but that care goes away once you take your first step. Additionally, yoga can be a big benefit for your recovery. I prefer Yin Yoga because it is like a long static stretching session. 

Running is a great way to stay fit and healthy, but injuries can put a damper on your training. Odds are that at some point in your running life, you will get a little injury, but by following these tips for injury prevention, you can reduce your risk and keep running pain-free. I hope to continue running into old age. I figure that’s my best option for qualifying for Boston! If you remember to wear proper footwear, gradually increase your weekly duration, incorporate strength training, warm up and cool down properly, and prioritize rest and recovery you can spend more time on the trail than on the couch. If you want any more details on what was talked about here leave a comment below or send us a message. If you are ready to jump into your next running adventure and want a plan that will keep you happy and healthy send us a message, and we can talk about how we can help you. Now go enjoy some time on your feet! 

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