Running is one of the most popular ways to exercise, thanks to its convenience—run anywhere, from city streets to country roads to high alpine trails. More than 40 million people in the United States run regularly, with 10 million of those running at least twice a week. Unfortunately, many of these people have experienced or continue to experience injuries, whether plantar fasciitis, illiotibial band syndrome, or stress fractures.
Is running dangerous?
The answer is no, running is not dangerous and has many benefits including improving the cardiovascular system, developing better proprioception, and even improving mental health. Injuries can happen to anyone and while many are accidents, some can be avoided entirely by taking a look at what you’re doing when you’re not running. Here are five ways to prevent running injuries.
1. Warm Up
Many people still hold the belief that a running warm-up should include hamstring stretches and other static holds. Warm-ups, however, should be taken literally where the goal is to warm up the body and its fascia in order to reduce the potential for tears and pulls. If possible, take a hot shower before your run to warm your muscles. If a shower isn’t possible, this can also be accomplished by wearing warm clothing and walking or jogging for 5 to 10 minutes.
2. Do Dynamic Stretching
Static stretching has long been lauded as the best way to prevent injury, but if your muscles aren’t properly warmed up, reaching for your toes or pulling your foot up to your glutes can actually cause a strain. When preparing for a run, it’s better to start warm then opt for a few dynamic stretches. Dynamic stretching uses movement-based stretching—like swinging your legs, rotating your core, performing a few bodyweight lunges, or jumping rope—to prepare the body for running. To get the most benefits out of dynamic stretching, begin with a series of stretches that focus on areas that tend to get tight: inchworms, lunges with a twist, and high knees are great stretches to get you started.
- Inchworms: Begin in a standing position. Slowly lower your hands to the floor, inching your way toward a high plank. Pause for one second then slowly move your hands back toward your feet until you are standing once more. Repeat 3-5 times.
- Lunge With A Twist: Perform a lunge so that your left foot is ahead, your right foot behind. Place your left hand near the outside of your left foot; bring your right hand to the sky. Switch feet and twist to the left on the next repeat.
- High Knees: While jogging, bring your knees up high, remaining as vertical as you can and maintaining proper core control. Jog for roughly 100 meters, repeating twice.
3. Foam Roll
Foam rollers look innocent enough, but these recovery tools can feel more like torture devices when used properly. Foam rolling is helpful before and after runs to break up adhesions in your fascia. In other words, think of it like self-massage. It’s worth taking the time to learn how to foam roll from an athletic trainer or professional in order to get the most out of your foam rolling sessions. In general, aim to foam roll 5 to 10 minutes each day, taking the time to work on spots that are especially tight.
4. Analyze Your Gait
Analyzing your gait is best done by a professional. You can find someone to analyze your gait remotely or in-person; they’ll probably look at your running form from three different points (front, back, and side.) Gait analyses look at muscular imbalances, weaknesses, and poor movement patterns, then offer solutions which include various stretches, exercises, and routines that can help to improve your posture and movement.
5. Work On Daily Posture
Your daily posture has a big effect on how you run. If you’re not convinced, think about how many hours you spend sitting or staring at a laptop, and how this can result in a tight lower back and sore neck. Paying attention to your hip stability, core, and flexibility can go a long way toward reducing your risk of running injury by supporting proper movement. If you’re not sure where to start, a physical therapist can spot muscle weaknesses and provide you with exercises to help your posture.
While most runners focus on the run itself, those who tend to last the longest in the sport know how to take care of themselves both before and after runs. Always take the time to warm-up and work out any kinks before they turn into bigger problems.
Do you practice any of the tips above? How do you keep yourself healthy as a runner? Let us know in the comments below!