Injuries among distance runners are common, from 501-80%2 according to sources. Some of the most common injuries are Achilles tendonitis, ankle sprain, runner’s knee, hamstring strain, plantar fasciitis, and shin splints. Many of these injuries occur because of improper training techniques or muscle imbalances, and most can be prevented.
Proper training should include a warm up and cool down, stretching, replacing your running shoes regularly, cross training, rest and following the “10% rule.”
Warm up and cool down are important to get the blood flowing to your muscles before you run so you don’t injure a muscle. Cooling down will redistribute your blood flow so you don’t get leg cramps. Stretching can be done before or after your workout. The research and latest recommendations are always changing, but currently the recommendation is for stretching after you run when your muscles are already warm.
Your running shoes should be replaced regularly. There are no current scientific guidelines I could find however the general recommendation is to replace them every 3-6 months or 300-600 miles. The best advice is to listen to your body. If you are starting to get aches and pains and your training schedule has not changed, it may be time to replace your running shoes.
Cross training is important to help with muscle balance. Since running is a repetitive motion in one direction certain muscles are going to become stronger than others and this can lead to injury. Also, some leg muscles may become too tight if not properly stretched with running regularly.
Rest is also important. You need at least one rest day per week for your body to recover. This doesn’t mean sit on the couch all day, although that may be fine too if you are running high mileage. The rest day could also be your cross-training day. Also, you will need some rest and recovery time after a long race or long or intense training day. Our bodies replenish and heal when we are sleeping or resting. Many injuries come from improper training or not enough rest. Diet is also important, but not my expertise.
The 10% rule. This is important for new runners and for those training for a race. Each week your training should increase by 10% at most. This 10% includes intensity (speed training days), time (days per week you are training), and duration (length of your runs). If any of these factors or combinations of these factors are increased too much too quickly then you put yourself at a much higher risk of injury.
Let’s talk about prevention. Besides following the 10% rule and rest days, cross training is the other most important way to prevent injury. Stretching all your leg muscles is very important for runners. Calf and quadricep muscles are what I find to be the tightest among runners, but stretching hamstrings, inner and outer thighs is also important. Stretches should be performed for about 30 seconds to 1 min each.
Another cross-training technique I find a lot of runners’ need is to work their outer hip muscles and their glutes. This is because most of running is in a straight line so it is important to balance that out. The outer hip muscles can be worked by walking sideways. If this is easy, walk sideways while staying in a squatting position. If this is also easy, you can add a resistance band around your knees or ankles.
Literature also suggests that runners need more glute strength. This can be done by bridging, fire hydrants or backward kicks to name a few exercises. Stair climbing is another good exercise.
These are a few suggestions to help you prevent injury. If you want to know more about these exercises there are videos on my website accessible for a small monthly or yearly fee. If you have a running injury or want an analysis of your run to prevent injury set up a consultation with me either in person (preferred if you are local) or an online video consultation can be set up as well.
1.Z Rheumatol. 2017 Feb 24. doi: 10.1007/s00393-017-0276-6. [Diseases and overuse injuries of the lower extremities in long distance runners]. Tschopp M1, Brunner F2.