10 Tips for Preventing Running Injuries
You love running, but you hate injuries. Who doesn’t? If you are running to get in shape, to lose weight or just because it makes you feel great, there is no need to accept traditional running injuries as unavoidable. The following 10 tips, best practices and veteran runner’s secrets will limit many of the typical injuries runners experience.
1 – Drink Lots of Water … Even on the Days You Are Not Running
A properly hydrated body is a healthy body. An adult human body is approximately 60% water. Your brain and heart are comprised of between 70% and 75% water, and your lungs are even thirstier, as their composition is 83% water! Put simply, your body needs water to function properly. How important is water for human health?
There have been instances where people have survived more than 30 days without eating any type of food. This is because they had some type of water supply available to them. Nutritionists, scientists, survivalists and others that understand the role of water in human survival say that you can’t go much longer than just 3 days without drinking water or you are likely to die.
Make a habit of drinking 1 or 2 glasses of water when you first wake up. This helps detoxify your body. It also helps give you a sense of fullness before you eat, so you may not overeat in the morning. Drink water throughout your day, and more on the days that you are running. Don’t underestimate how important this single tip can be to preventing running injuries.
2 – Loosen Up, Stretch, Limber Up Before, and Cool Down After
You have heard this advice a million times, but you would be surprised at how many runners don’t follow this simple injury reducing tip. Tens of millions of people run for exercise around the globe. It is difficult to compile data from every runner, but one thing is for certain. Running injuries are not uncommon.
Some estimates show as much as 79% of runners are sidelined each year because of a running related injury. One of the most common causes of running injuries is running without first preparing the body.
You absolutely must stretch or loosen up before you start running. You can run at a very slow pace or jog for a few minutes, or follow a very specific set of stretching exercises. Whatever you do, make sure your body is limber and loose before you head out for a run, and the chance that you will suffer an injury drops dramatically.
Don’t forget to let your body cool off after you run, before you plop down into your favorite chair or on your sofa. This can be as simple as walking for a few minutes. Interlace your fingers and place them behind your head as you walk, and keep your head high. This promotes proper breathing, which supplies healthy, oxygenated blood to all parts of your body, and helps you cool down quicker.
3 – Practice Proper Form
There is a right and wrong way of doing just about everything. In sports, form is essential to achieve the results you’re looking for. While everyone is uniquely and physically different, there is a basic runner form you should be following. A quick trip to YouTube and a search for “proper running form” will give you an idea of what you are trying to duplicate.
You can also talk with a physical trainer or running coach in your area for some hands-on instruction. Either way, you need to understand, and practice, proper running form to minimize injury. Just like many of the tips on this page, forgetting this one important point can lead to injury even if you have taken all of the other tips to heart.
4 – Wear the Right Shoes, and Know When to Replace Them
In the 2009 book Born to Run, the author blames the “modern running shoe” for the high injury rate that serious runners experience. Whether a correct assumption or not, that popular bestseller got the running community talking about the importance of wearing the proper shoes to maximize your running experience. That’s a good thing.
Always purchase running shoes in the evening. This allows your feet to stretch during the day and will make sure that as you run and your feet swell, they will not be cramped and crowded by overly tight shoes. Unfortunately, there is no secret recipe to discovering which type of running shoe will work for you.
This means you will have to go through a trial and error process of buying and trying different shoes. Just remember that running research shows the firmness of your shoe cushioning directly relates to the stiffness of your legs, so keep that in mind, and cater that fact to the type of running you are doing. Experts recommend replacing your shoes every 350 to 450 miles, and alternating new shoes with your current shoes when they near the end of their life cycle.
5 – Run On the Right Kind of Terrain
If you are just starting out running, don’t attempt a steep mountain slope with loose ground and ever-changing terrain. If you are running for speed, find the flattest, straightest training area possible. Whenever you can, run on grass covered ground that is firm and level. Remember to cater your terrain to the type of running you will be doing, and the shoes you are wearing.
6 – Stand More and Sit Less
Health experts now recognize sitting as an incredibly unhealthy pastime. For those that sit more than 8 hours a day, research shows that no amount of physical fitness training and exercise can undo the unhealthy consequences of being sedentary for such a long period of time!
This means you should stand periodically throughout your day when you would usually be sitting. Don’t overcompensate though. If you were to stand up every day all day, you would be so worn out and physically tired that you would never be able to run.
Anytime you catch yourself sitting for 30 minutes, get up and walk around, bending and stretching your legs. The human body was not made to sit for extended lengths of time. So make sure you are standing and walking just as much, if not more, than the time that you spend sitting on your rear end and enjoying no physical activity.
7 – Strength Train
Dr. Reed Ferber is the director of the Running Injury Clinic at the University of Calgary in Canada. He often tells runners that “… if muscles are weak, one footfall will not be like the rest.” He recommends strength training for all runners to alleviate this problem, serious and casual alike. After all, a strong body is naturally more resistant to injury than a week one.
When you run, the repetitive, pounding motion you are making with your feet puts a lot of stress on the muscles of your lower body. Even your arms and upper body experience the strain of constantly repeating the same motion. This means you should add bodyweight training, weightlifting or some other type of strength training regimen for both your upper and lower bodies to your fitness program, to help limit your running injury risk.
8 – Study Your Cadence
Your running cadence is nothing more than the rate of your steps. This is how many footfalls you make every 60 seconds. Record your cadence over several running sessions. Then average those numbers out and you have your typical cadence.
Now that you have this number, what do you do with it? Is your cadence high or low? Is it good or bad? The answer depends on you. If you have a faster cadence, you land a lot of footfalls in 60 seconds, this can minimize your attempt at over-striding. It also reduces force acting on your joints.
Many running coaches suggest that if your cadence is above 160 steps every 60 seconds, and you are not injured or overreaching your stride, stick with your current cadence. Whatever your cadence is, you can increase or decrease by 5% or 10% and tweak for the best results.
9 – Consider Your Foot Strike
It makes a lot of sense that the way your foot lands on the ground can either promote injury, or an injury-free running session. Some experts recommend landing on the middle of your foot or even the front of your foot, rather than your heel. Some studies show that this reduces injury risk. If you are constantly injured and practicing all of the other tips on this page, consider changing your foot strike.
10 – Take Some Time Off
Research shows that too much running is unhealthy, and not just in the short term. If you are not giving your body sufficient rest between running sessions, sure, you will experience short-term injuries. However, substantial research in the early part of the 21st century shows that excessive running is damaging to your longevity, and to your organs in the long term as well.
If you just run casually a few times a week, you are allowing your body enough time to rest and heal properly. However, if you run every day without fail, and push yourself hard, you need to start scheduling rest days. Aside from developing an unhealthy mental obsession that can cause problems in other areas of your life, constant running is not good for your body now, or in the future.
Employ all of the tips above that keep you healthy and running, and you substantially limit your injury risks. Eat smart, drink lots of water, get plenty of rest and stay active when you are not running. Wear the right shoes, and run on the right type of terrain. Always stretch before running and cool down afterwards, and if you follow all of these tips, running can deliver the health rewards you are looking for, without the injuries no one wants to experience.