Tips to Prevent Running Injuries

Preventing running injuries is certainly a challenge. Every runner is a puzzle – all are built differently and come with their own history of injuries. Further, injuries are typically multifaceted. A combination of factors can lead to injury. Below are seven tips to prevent running injuries. 

  1. Training error: doing too much, too fast, too soon
  • This is the number one cause of running injuries.
  • It is important to allow muscles and joints time to recover, so that they can handle future demands. They need time to adapt to increases in both mileage and speed.
  • Training should be a progression with points of reduced volume and intensity at certain times of a training period, season or year.
  • Increases in training volume, duration, and intensity should be a gradual increase of no more than 5-10% per week. (i.e., if you have been running 50kms/week and suddenly jump to 75km in one week, you are putting yourself at high risk for injuring yourself).
  1. Strength
  • This is what I would consider the second most important area for reducing your risk of a running related injury. This could be an entire article, but here are the main points here.
  • Running is a dynamic movement. Multiple muscles, bones, and joints all have to work together to create proper motion. 
  • Strength training reduces muscular fatigue, which can lead to poor performance and injuries. If one link (i.e., your arm or hip) is weak, this can affect other areas in the chain of movements.
  • When strength and stability are present, your energy as a runner can be used to move you forward faster, rather than wasting it stabilizing your hips and knees.
  • The focus should be to increase your strength during the offseason/pre-season, and in season to maintain it.
  • Effective forms of improving strength as a runner include weight lifting, plyometrics, and hill running. 
  • In order for strength training to be the most beneficial it should be done 2-3 times per week.
  1. Proper warm up/cool down before a run or race
  • Key to include both in your running routine.
  • A warm up should include a slow and easy paced run for approximately 10-15 minutes at the start of every run. This becomes especially important if you are running in the morning or it is cold outside.
  • Your cool down will be similar in length and intensity to your warm up (10-15 minutes slow/easy pace), after your hard work is done. This can be followed by stretching and/or mobility exercises.
  1. Mobility 
  • Natural stresses to the body from training can cause muscle fibres to knot up and stick together, which limits their proper function and can put you at higher risk for injury.
  • To break down these knots or adhesions in your tissues it is important to include mobility exercises to your routine.
  • This can be done either after your run while you are warm, at the end of a strength session, or on another x-training day. It is most advantageous if this is done 2-3x/week.
  • Focus on all the joints that move through the running cycle.
  1. Work on form and biomechanics
  • Again, another large topic that could be an entire article, so here are the main points.
  • Experts do say, that if you are running injury free, then you should not worry about changing anything.
  • But, if you are chronically getting injured, then perhaps looking into your running biomechanics may be beneficial.
  • Points to think about include running with good posture, swinging arms front to back, land lightly, lead with your hips, check your cadence, and reduce over-striding.
  1. Shoes
  • When picking a shoe, it is best to go by comfort.
  • Shoes can reduce risk of injury (and also cause them) as they can alter your form and the way repetitive forces from running are applied to your body.
  • Switching between various types of shoes, depending on the type of running workout you are doing mixes up how these forces are applied. 
  • As a good rule of thumb, it is smart to replace your shoes every 300-500km of running.
  1. Sleep
  • Sleep is very important for the health of our minds and bodies.
  • It is when your body repairs muscle, builds bone, increases red blood cell production, replenishes glycogen, and stores neuromuscular learning that occurred during the day.
  • Getting 7.5-8 hours of sleep is optimal for recovery and ensures all body systems are ready to go the next day.

Stay tuned for more information that will help you live and run healthier and more tips to prevent running injuries.   Thanks for checking in.

Dr. Tara Brown is a chiropractor at The Core Optimum Health and Performance Centre in Mississauga, ON. She is an experienced, age competitive runner, training with the Toronto Harriers Run Club and enjoys competing in all distances from 5k to marathon.

tips to prevent running injuries