Great Ways to Prevent Running Injuries
The possibility of injury is something all runners need to be aware of, no matter how much – or how little! – time we’ve been running for. In my book, prevention is always better than cure, and to that end I’ve put together a list of my favourite tips on keeping injury at bay.
1) Invest in good shoes
The first step in the fight against injury is making sure you wear a decent pair of shoes while you run. This doesn’t mean picking up the most expensive trainers in the shop; rather, it’s about understanding how you run and the level of support you need.
Of course, it’s not really possible to watch yourself run and, if you could, you might not understand what you’re seeing. So, the simplest thing to do is to get yourself to a decent sports shop and have your gait analysed (good stores, like Lilywhites in London, will offer this for free). It’s not a big deal – it just involves you running for less than a minute on a treadmill.
Then, staff will be able to tell you what kind of shoe you need to achieve the right level of support. They’ll also help you choose a pair, re-testing your gait with each; you don’t have to do this if you don’t fancy it – but I think it’s worth it.
2) Warm up!
The next step in injury prevention is remembering to warm up for a few minutes before you run – especially if you’ve been sat at a desk all day. I have to admit, I’m pretty bad at this, but it really can help avoid strains when you start running.
If you’re like me and are a little impatient (and perhaps lazy!), spend the first few minutes of your run jogging lightly. This can act as a warm up as long as you keep your speed well below what it usually is.
3) Be injury-aware while running
Listening to your body is one of the best ways to avoid injury. Most of us will experience the odd ache or twinge while running – it comes with the territory – but persistent sharp pains (ones that last over ten minutes/throughout your run and continue afterwards) are probably the sign of an oncoming or existing issue.
The temptation here is to adopt the attitude that, since you can technically still run, it’s not a problem, but that’s a sure-fire way to turn a minor ache into a full-blown injury. Instead, ice the affected area once you get home, and scale down your mileage/intensity until it improves.
4) Stretch and stretch some more!
New runners often think they should stretch before they run, but don’t think about doing so afterwards. In fact, it’s more important to stretch as soon as you finish; this is essential in boosting muscle recovery and avoiding injury. Fail to stretch adequately and you’re far more likely to experience soreness, while your muscles will be more limited in their mobility. Over time, this can even lead to muscle shortening – so, stretching is a big deal!
Stretch all the major lower-body muscle groups, holding each stretch for 20 to 30 seconds. On occasions when you’re short of time, make sure you at least stretch your hip flexors, as doing so will help the rest of the muscles in your legs relax.
5) Consider recovery nutrition
There are certain things you can eat and drink after a run that will go some way to boosting your recovery and, consequently, help prevent future injury. Personally, I like drinking chocolate milk when I get home, and not just because I’m a chocoholic! It actually has the right balance of proteins and carbs for recovery – but you should also eat a balanced meal soon after finishing, too.
Another option to consider is investing in a home oxygen canister. By inhaling oxygen-enriched air, your muscles are likely to recover faster – and this could also boost performance over time.