Injuries are a fact of the running life. Especially for a newbie. Nearly every runner will get injured at some point, but fortunately most of the common running injuries that plague runners are minor—and avoidable. Obviously, prevention is the best way to go either by eliminating the causes or by listening to the body’s warning signs and taking a break.
Here are 10 ways you can avoid getting injured:
1. Walk in, walk out. Start every run with a few minutes of walking. And finish that way too. This will allow your muscles to warm up before the run and cool down following it. When you start the actual running, start slowly and gradually ease your way into the pace of the run. Hold yourself back for the first 5-10 minutes and eventually you will naturally find your pace.
2. Progress slowly. When you feel it’s time to boost your training, only add small amounts of mileage, speed training, long runs or hills. Don’t add more than five miles per week. Only increase your speedwork by five minutes (or one or two sets). Same with hills. Only add an extra one or two sets of hills. Allow your body the time it needs to gradually adapt to the added training load.
3. Don’t try to make up for missed workouts. If you need to miss a scheduled key workout (such as a long run), let it go and don’t try to make it up the next day. If you try to squeeze a key workout in that you’ve missed, it will mess up your entire schedule and force you to run hard too many days in a row. Missing one workout—even a key one—isn’t going to hurt you in the long run. Trying to squeeze it into a crowded schedule, could come back to haunt you.
4. Go soft once or twice a week. If almost all of your running is on roads, seek out a trail or grass surface for at least a couple of easy runs every week. Doing so, will give your legs (and head) a much needed break. Instead of running the roads, go to the Butler/Lady Bird Trail for an easy run or do strides on the vast grass expanses of Zilker Park or a convenient soccer field.
5. When in doubt, sit out. If a minor muscular strain, tenderness or soreness crops up or you can’t run without limping even just a little, pass on the scheduled workout. Maybe go for a walk instead. Better to rest a tender area now, rather than push it and pay the consequences later.
6. R&R all year. Take at least one rest day per week, but also plan for one easy week of light running per month and one easy month per year. Cut yourself a break and ease up on the throttle and give your legs the chance they need to bounce back.
7. Stretch after running. There shouldn’t be any debate whether you stretch or when you stretch. Absolutely, you should stretch after running. Don’t bother stretching cold muscles before you run; it doesn’t help. Instead, stretch within 10 minutes after each and every run. If you don’t know how, learn how.
8. Ice, ice, ice. Whenever any muscle, ligament or tendon is tender to the touch after running, ice it. Cool the inflamed muscle by applying ice or a cold pack to reduce the inflammation. Never heat an injured or sore muscle after running. That will only make the soreness worse.
9. Monitor shoe wear. You should wear a good pair of running shoes when you run and not just any type of athletic shoe. Only wear running shoes. Also monitor the amount of wear you have on your shoes. Even the best running shoes will wear out eventually and lose the ability to cushion. How do you know when shoes are worn out? When an easy run results in unusual soreness is one way. Also when the cushioning feels compromised or too firm. Most good running shoes from reputable manufacturers will last anywhere from 350 to 500 miles. If you don’t know which shoe you should wear, go to specialty running store such as Rogue, Luke’s Locker, Texas Running Company or Ready to Run in Austin.
10. Never run through pain. Never. Whoever said no pain, no gain, is flat out wrong. Pain is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong. Pain should be respected. If there is pain, stop running. Always err on the side of caution.