5 Tips to Help Prevent Running Injuries

5 Tips to Help Prevent Running Injuries

Mar 16 2016

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” - Benjamin Franklin

By: Rob Andro

Running is unlike most sports. It puts a lot of stress and impact on only a few body parts. Preparing your body to run is a much easier act than trying to repair the damage once it’s done.

By understanding how you run, you can strengthen trouble areas and buy the best shoes that can help protect your body. Addressing any weaknesses or chronic trouble areas will lay the groundwork for your personalized training plan, as well as your stretching and strength training regimen. Here are some great first steps to make your running life better:

  1. Determine your current fitness level
    Running requires some basic strength and flexibility. A lot of running injuries occur because someone decides they want to get fit (whether to be stronger, to lose weight, or take part in a local 5K), so they reach into their closet to find old tennis shoes, find a two or three mile loop in their neighborhood, and then head out the door. This is a recipe for disaster. Just as you wouldn’t attempt 300 pounds for your first bench press, if you haven’t been active for an extended period of time, or at all, a smart first move would be to start walking. Then you can slowly incorporate running into your regimen. Bike rides and elliptical machines are also great first steps because they eliminate most of the stress on your joints. Lastly, body weight squats, planks, and push-ups will start to lay some great groundwork for a body fit for running.
  2. Make sure you have a good pair of shoes
    About 80 percent of us can benefit from the help of a good pair of shoes. Whether it’s a cushioned neutral shoe, or a pair that provides more stability, finding shoes that are comfortable, and address any possible weakness, will make your miles easier. Your shoes should fit your arch and heel securely, and leave a half of an inch of room between your longest toe and the end of the shoe. If you have any questions about your choice of footwear, your first stop should be to a specialty running store, such as Gazelle Sports.  At specialty running stores, staff members know more than just the basic elements of shoe construction and leg biomechanics. Their expertise can be invaluable toward making your first run great!
  3. Become an avid foam roller user
    No matter how you feel, how far you’ve run or how hard you ran, you should always use a foam roller when you’re finished. By foam rolling, you massage and stretch the tissue that covers your muscles. The more mobility you can maintain in this tissue, the happier you will be. Make sure you get your iliotibial bands, quads and your calves. If you’re crunched for time and can only do one thing after your run, make sure it’s the foam roller.
  4. Know the right stretches, and when to use them

    Did you know that you should never stretch a cold muscle? Static stretches, like touching your toes and holding for 30 seconds, should be saved for after your run. Before your run you want to incorporate dynamic stretches (stretches that involve movement). Try jumping jacks, leg swings, high knees, butt kicks or a simple brisk walk. If you don’t allow your body to warm up slowly before you run, you could be causing significant damage that would further delay any gains you hoped to achieve.   

  5. Get enough sleep
    Any time you are in the midst of a fitness plan or training regimen, your body needs time to recover. The single best time for that recovery is while you are sleeping. Finding the time to get eight hours of sleep every night might be the most important thing you do for your body while training. Not getting enough sleep causes your mood to fluctuate, doesn’t give your body time to repair the damage you’ve done and can drain you of the critical energy you need to get through your workouts. Being tired zaps your energy, your strength and your desire to train. Make sure that you have scheduled plenty of time to sleep, alongside all your workouts.

If you do have an ache or pain flare up while running, stop immediately. You should never run through a pain that causes you to change your normal running form.  If the pain continues or you have any questions about it, Gazelle Sports Grand Rapids hosts an injury clinic every Wednesday night called Injury Wise from 6 to 8 p.m. It is free of charge, and matches you one-on-one with a local sports medicine professional.

About the author: Rob Andro is the 5K/ 10K Training Program Coordinator at Gazelle Sports in Grand Rapids. Rob loves to run the trails in West Michigan, and lives to help others meet their fitness and health goals. He is also one of their top “Gear Nerds.” In his 7+ years at Gazelle, he has completed numerous runs up to and past the marathon distance, and enjoys the opportunity to share the lessons he has learned through all of his adventures.