5 Ways to Prevent Injuries
posted on 4/12/14
- Build a base gradually. Do not increase your mileage more than 10% every two weeks. Unless you normally average 35 miles a week most of the year, you should not jump from 25 to 35. This guideline can be adjusted depending on your experience and factors such as strength training, cross training, and intensity. Certain phases, such as sharpening, mileage should not increase at all for several weeks, or even decrease.
- Stretch. While most recommend you stretch before and after a run, it's especially important to at least warm up a mile or ten minutes before you stretch in the beginning. Focus more on dynamic stretches in the beginning, and static stretches after your run.
- Strengthen. Strength training is an important part of running that's too often neglected. Particularly important is core strength, and lower leg exercises such as eccentric calf raises and using an elastic resistance band anchored to a couch leg or sitting on a table or stool with a paint can/bucket with rocks to move your foot up and down by the ankle. This helps prevent shin splints, one of the most common injuries. Left untreated, shin splints can lead to stress fractures.
- Rest. Listen to your body. If you are unusually sore during a run, slow down or cut it short. It takes some experience to learn which are just harmless aches and which pains raise alarms. As I progressed through my 30s, I generally experienced more pain in the warmup phase. In my 40s pretty much everything hurts at first. But when your pain-killing endorphins are flowing and you develop a new pain in the middle of a run, definitely back off. Getting more sleep, taking days off, icing, rollers, massage and doing more low impact cross training like swimming, biking, pilates and yoga can make your rest more effective.
- Varied surfaces. Take a break from roads and other hard surfaces and run on trails, dirt, sand or grass. Running in nature surrounded by trees or water is especially good for you and relieves stress. People even feel better just by looking at pictures of nature, though that won't exactly help prevent a knee injury!
Tony has been a runner for over three decades, competing in cross country and track in high school and college, and road races for various clubs. He's served as team captain for several Corporate Challenge teams at YMCA of the USA, and has informally coached many friends over the years.
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