By: Raquel Torres
Run happy and smartly
Running does have a risk of injury but if you follow some simple guidelines like warming up, wearing the right gear or clothes, fueling for what you are training for and not pushing yourself too hard, most injuries can be prevented.
Some Risk Factors About Running:
Overtraining – running beyond your current level of fitness or doing too much too soon can put muscles, bones, tendons and ligaments under strain. Shin pain and stress fractures are common overuse injuries in runners. Some tips to avoid overtraining consequences:
- Build up slowly. Don’t push too hard beyond your current level of fitness. Plan to gradually increase how long and how often you run over a few months.
- Do Cross training. Training like a triathlete, alternating running with other low impact sports like cycling or swimming can be very beneficial in many ways and it gives your body a break, helps muscles to absorb impact and protects joints and bones.
- Avoid running on consecutive days to allow the body to recover between runs. As a general rule of thumb, avoid increasing your weekly mileage by more than 15%. This rule applies to seasoned runners as well. Remember that the most common cause of stress fractures is doing too much too soon.
- Keep marathons in moderation, stick to 1-2 marathons per year to allow your body to recover.
Hard surfaces – the impact of running on hard surfaces, such as bitumen, can cause injuries including shin pain and stress fractures. Tip: Try to use soft surfaces like clear trails, treadmill, track, grass or any clear, smooth, even and reasonably soft surface. Avoid uneven surfaces and concrete. Gradually introduce surface changes and alternate hard surfaces runs with softs like dirt roads.
Incorrect shoes – Before you even hit the pavement or track, boost your confidence with the right running shoes. Using the wrong type of shoe can increase the risk of various injuries, including blisters, stress fractures and shin pain. Some tips about running shoes:
- Buy running shoes at an athletic store, where a sales clerk can help you choose a shoe that fits your foot type. This can help prevent injuries.
- Your foot should fit snug in the heel, with a little wiggle room around your toes, experts say to guarantee the best fit, get a proper fitting at a specialty running store and wear your usual running socks when you go.
- Track your shoes’ mileage. Worn out shoes can often contribute to and/or exacerbate pain in the ankles, knees, and hips. But it’s not enough to buy the right shoes. You also need to maintain them properly. “Experts in sports medicines recommend replacing your shoes every 400 to 600 miles, or about every 4-6 months if you run regularly. Only run in your current running shoes.
- Have 2 pairs of running shoes. To extend the life of your shoes, having two pairs is a great idea. Alternate your runs between the two pairs. Or, you could also have one pair suitable for longer runs and a lightweight pair for your faster speed workouts. Having two pairs is also helpful when you’ve had a rainy or muddy run. While one pair is drying, you can run in the alternate pair. Use your good running shoes JUST for running.
Did you know that PROPER nutrition can avoid many injuries?
It’s true that proper nutrition can do little to prevent injuries caused by factors such as over training or wearing the wrong type of running shoes. But specific eating habits can be an effective part of a comprehensive injury-prevention strategy.
Stick to a healthy Diet. The worst nutritional mistake you can make with regard to injury prevention is to eat too few calories. That can lead to stress fractures. When your body doesn’t get enough calories to meet all of its tissue maintenance and energy needs, it will enter a catabolic state—which means your muscles begin eating themselves. Consequently, catabolism compromises your body’s ability to repair tissue damage incurred during workouts, which slows muscle recovery and increases your risk of injury.
Don’t forget the fat
Fat has a bad reputation, but it’s needed in the diet to create healthy cell membranes that are resistant to damage during exercise. A 2003 University of Buffalo study concluded that female athletes (particularly endurance athletes) who restricted their dietary fat intake had a higher risk of injury and higher levels of fatigue during training.
What’s most interesting is that the low-fat diet athletes and high-fat diet athletes ate the same amounts of carbohydrates, fiber, protein, magnesium, calcium, B vitamins, and iron. For the group that did not eat enough fat, they suffered from both low energy availability and poor nutrient absorption.
Keep the calcium coming
Bone strains and stress fractures are uncommon in swimming and cycling, but quite common in running—especially for those with low bone density.
After all, your diet creates the building blocks of your body structure. Just as a well-built house is more likely to survive an earthquake, a properly nourished body is better able to withstand, say, a rigorous half-marathon training plan. That said, here a tip nutrition habit that will help you reduce the risk of injury:
Train, shower, eat
When you eat is every bit as important as what you eat when it comes to preventing injuries. Muscle and joint tissue damage that occurs during a workout is repaired most quickly in the two hours immediately after the workout—provided you eat during that time.
The most important nutrient to consume for post-exercise tissue repair is protein, but research has shown that consuming protein with carbohydrate is even better, because carbs stimulate muscle protein synthesis as well as restock depleted muscle glycogen stores.
Be moderate with the loading distance and the volume with intensity, this is like cooking, too much of an ingredient (aka: volume, intensity, frequency or surfaces) can be much worse than too little.
Don’t ignore pain, a little soreness is OK. But if you notice consistent pain in a muscle, bone or joint that doesn’t get better with rest, stop the activity and see a health care provider.
Most research on strength training for injury prevention in runners focuses on hips. Strengthening the hip muscles (hip abductors and external rotators) does help keep the knee in line with the hip. This is good advice to prevent mild knee pain from patellar tendonitis and shin splints. At the same time, if a runner only works on hip strength, ignoring core stability they haven’t gained the full benefit.
Create a smart running plan: Before beginning a running routine, talking to a good experienced coach or trainer can help you create a well balanced running plan that is in line with your current fitness abilities and long-term goals.