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Health and Fitness

7 ways to prevent running injuries

If you’re worried about running-related injuries like iliotibial band syndrome or patellar syndrome, read on to find out how to avoid them.

Running may be one of the most popular forms of exercise in the world, but like any sporting activity, it comes with its share of injuries. Shin splints, patellar syndrome, iliotibial band syndrome, research shows that nearly half of runners injure themselves over the course of a year, with most of these injuries being to the knee or Achilles tendon.

It is important to be aware of the different risks of injury to which you expose yourself in the event of overtraining or improper training. Knowing the warning signals sent by your body will allow you to adapt your training before it is too late.

The good news is that by training carefully and listening to your body, you can protect yourself and avoid injuries during your running sessions.

What are the most common running injuries?

Running-related injuries can affect all runners, from beginners to ultra-marathoners. The most common types of injuries are:

  • Patella syndrome : this is characterized by a dull ache around the front of your knee or patella;
  • Iliotibial band syndrome : it corresponds to pain on the outer side of the knee, occurring over variable distances, initially long and then over increasingly shorter distances.
  • Shin splint : this pain occurs at the front of your leg, at the level of the tibia, most often at its lower part. It corresponds to an inflammation of the periosteum which is a membrane surrounding the bone on which muscles are inserted. It can occur after excessive traction of the muscles at the level of their insertion zones but also following excessive vibrations during races on hard ground.
  • Achilles tendinopathy : Running can cause wear and tear of the Achilles tendon, which runs down the back of the leg to the heel;
  • Plantar fasciitis : Also known as plantar fasciitis, this condition can cause pain in the heel and arch;
  • Muscle tears: Running puts a strain on your hamstring muscles, which sometimes causes tears and pain in the back of your thighs.

These injuries are usually not caused by a one-time event; they appear gradually during the regular practice of intensive or unsuitable running. While running isn’t inherently bad for your joints, it’s important to tailor your training to minimize impact and avoid injury.

How can I prevent running injuries?

Here are some ways to reduce your risk of running injuries.

1. Don’t do too much too soon

Gradually increase the intensity and distance of your runs. If you’re a beginner, it’s best to slowly increase the level of your running: the tissues in your legs, especially those around the knees, need time to develop.

Listen to your body and slow down if you feel pain or tension.

Pain is a signal that something is wrong, and it’s never good to ignore it or put up with it for too long. Follow the 10% rule: don’t increase your training load by more than 10% each week.

2. Rest and recover

Overtraining increases the risk of overuse injuries. Sufficient rest between each session gives your tissues and muscles the opportunity to repair themselves.

It is during periods of rest that your body gains strength and tissues strengthen. The time your body needs to recover between runs varies depending on the effort put in. The longer and more intense your runs, the longer your rest period should be. If your workouts are shorter and less intense, you will need less time.

It is also essential to get good quality sleep and eat well during your rest period.

3. Always warm up and stretch

When you warm up, you prepare your body for movement by increasing blood flow to the right muscles, your coordination improves, and you become more aware of your body. Warming up can also help you identify any pain your body is feeling and help determine if you need to adjust your workouts.

Instead of stretching on the spot, it is advisable to do dynamic mobility movements as a warm-up, such as:

  • Lunges : Keeping your back straight, place your hands on your hips to balance and engage your core muscles. Take a big step back or forward, and bend your knee until your thigh is parallel to the floor. Do this exercise slowly, so you feel a slight stretch in your hip flexors. Do 10 reps of deep lunges on each leg.

  • Squats : Start by standing with your feet hip-width apart. Keep your back straight and your shoulders back. Contract your core and slowly bring your hips back, bending your knees and sitting up in a squat position. Do 10 reps.

Cooling down after a run also helps your recovery and allows your body to return to its normal state. It is important to run slowly or walk for the last 3-4 minutes.

4. Incorporate muscle-strengthening exercises

Incorporating muscle-strengthening exercises into your running routine can also protect you from injury. One study found that Brazilian runners who participated in a foot and ankle strengthening program reduced their risk of injury by almost 60% compared to the group that did not do strengthening exercises.

Running is a repetitive sport and many injuries are often due to overuse, which is injury to a joint or muscle due to repeated trauma. Strengthening exercises help the body grow stronger. Weighted lunges, deadlifts, or squats strengthen your muscles and tissues, which will help you run with more control and stability.

5. Invest in supportive running shoes

Shoes that are comfortable and offer good support are essential to prevent injuries. For best results, gear up at a specialty running store. You will be able to receive advice on the most suitable shoes for the shape of your feet and your way of running.

If you’re a beginner, running shoes are especially important for supporting your feet as you get used to running. If you’re a long-distance runner, you’ll need a shoe that gives you a lot of support.

5. Fine-tune your way of running

Improving the way you run will allow you to run more comfortably and efficiently, as well as reduce the risk of injury.

Stand up straight and keep your ears in line with your shoulders. Make sure you’re not pressing down on your heels or pushing your waist too far. Relax your shoulders and hands and let your arms swing naturally—your hands should almost brush the sides of your hips.

7. Stay active between runs

On days when you are not running, you can of course stay physically active. Low-impact activities that don’t strain your joints are ideal. Training at high intensity and then stopping all physical activity for long periods of time is not good for the body. A light walk, swim, or bike ride between high-intensity workouts can help your body recover.

When should I see a doctor?

If you have injured yourself while running and your condition does not improve over time after trying simple methods, consult a doctor at Healthlinerx. It is advisable to make an emergency appointment if:

  • you have severe pain or swelling in a joint or bone;
  • you have numbness, tingling or weakness in the painful area;
  • you are unable to stand or move the injured area.

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