Running is one of the greatest joys of my life. I have been an avid runner for over 20 years and have not sustained any injuries to date. I have competed in numerous 5k and 10k runs, but prefer to run for sheer pleasure on trails in the woods with my dog, Ruby.
Here are 6 tips for injury-free running that I hope are helpful to you whether you are a new runner or have been running for many years. Take care and enjoy the sport!
1. Be realistic
Many running injuries can be attributed to feelings of invincibility and impatience. Taking on too great a distance or skipping strength training are examples of carelessness that can lead to injuries when you first take up the sport. A more gradual approach can help you avoid injuries like shin splints, plantar fasciitis, achilles tendonitis, and quadricep strains to name a few.
2. Be patient
Running is all about consistency and a progressive pattern of training. Recognize that modest increases in distance done over a long period of time will help you avoid injuries. Don’t compete with others on your distance and speed as a new runner. Enjoy your run by taking the time to clear your mind or listen to music that motivates you. As with any form of exercise, create positive associations with running so you stick with it.
3. Most runners don’t just run
A strong heart and lungs aren’t the only physical attributes you need to run. Being athletically well-rounded and coordinated helps you to prevent injuries. You need core, you need drills, and you need weights to balance the strength of your muscle groups. Muscles work more efficiently when they are equally strong. This is particularly important for your quads and hamstrings in order to prevent knee-related injuries.
4. Form is important
Running is a skill like any other athletic activity. It is best to learn correct running form early on when it is not that difficult for you to change. Your body will adapt to your own natural running form, but over time this can result in muscle weaknesses which put you at risk for muscle imbalance injuries. While there is no perfect form, the form or style I have found to be most helpful is ChiRunning.
5. Run on different surfaces
There is nothing wrong with running on the road, but I am a strong advocate of trail running. A softer surface is much easier on your bones and joints and also helps you recover more quickly. Varied terrain, especially with hills, helps you strengthen more muscles and helps to build your coordination. It is also therapeutic to run in a park or wooded setting surrounded by the beauty of nature. For the sake of safety, always run with a partner or group in remote or secluded areas. (Or with your dog if he or she is of the “fearless protector” breed like my Ruby!)
6. Take care of yourself
Self-care like icing your muscles when you need it, using foam rollers, taking a nap after a hard workout, eating right, and getting enough sleep are all very important for optimal running. In addition, be sure to take care of little aches and pains before they become a real injury. Always warm up, cool down, and stretch right after you run as well. Running gets you in good shape, but what you do before and after really matters in enabling you to enjoy it for many years to come.
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