Most consistent runners will relate that they have been injured at least once in the last 12 months. While there is no crystal ball to see the cause of every injury, there are things that you can do to try to prevent, or at least decrease, the severity of these sidelining injuries. Here are a few tips to help keep you on the road and out of the doctor’s office!
- Don’t Binge Exercise! The most common cause of running injuries that I see is “too much, too soon, too fast” syndrome. We get so excited to get out there that we do too much all at once. Our bodies get stronger with small increases in stress over time. We break down with big increases in stress in a short period of time. Although there is no scientific evidence validating the 10% increase per week rule; it works! Meaning do not increase your mileage more than 10% per week and do not increase your distance and pace at the same time. Work on either speed or endurance; but not both.
- Strength Training. Strength training is a great way to prevent many injuries. Almost every runner I see with plantar fasciitis (heel/arch pain) has tight hamstrings and a weak butt. Integrating a total body strength workout at least once or twice a week in your routine can really help balance your core muscles and decrease injuries.
- Replace Your Shoes Regularly. This is the one preventable thing that I see the most often in my office. Worn out shoes are like worn out tires on your car. They lead to all kinds of repetitive stress injuries. The rule of thumb is to replace your shoes every 400-500 miles or every 6 months; whichever comes first! If you are running more than 3 days a week, you should be rotating two pairs of shoes.
- Socks Matter! A lot of people will just go running in their daily wear socks. Socks do matter and wearing a moisture wicking sock like dry-weave or coolmax will help keep your feet cool and dry. This decreases blisters, calluses, and athlete’s foot fungus.
- Massage. A regular deep tissue massage or habitual foam rolling will help increase blood flow to your leg muscles and break down any scar tissue. A massage is not a guilty pleasure, it’s a great way to stop a niggling injury in its tracks! If you can’t justify the expense of regular massages, invest in a foam roller and use it regularly.
- Check your Iron levels. No one likes to go to the doctor and have their blood drawn, but fatigue from iron deficiency is a common cause of injuries, especially in women. Simply adding an iron supplement can ward off these types on fatigue injuries.
- Listen to your body! It’s always amazing to me how many people push through the beginning stages of an injury and make themselves 10X worse! If you have pain on the run, STOP! Take a few rest days or cross train. You likely know the difference between the achiness of fatigue and the pain of an injury. When in doubt, shut it down for a few days and R.I.C.E. – rest, ice, compress and elevate! If the pain persists more than 4-5 days, you’re hurt. Forget the denial process and find your way into your favorite doctor’s office.
- Sleep. This is one of those things that we as Americans are really bad at – sleeping 8 or more hours a night. Just like the fatigue of anemia, going out running when you haven’t had adequate rest will cause your biomechanics to break down and can lead to an injury. If you are tired, it’s OK to skip a run; just remember that lazy and tired are two different things!
- Hydration. Why do so many of us run while dehydrated? Especially in hotter climates, we require at least half of our body weight in ounces each day. Your muscles need the water to process lactic acid and your body will thank you. As a bonus, well hydrated skin actually looks younger! It’s a win : win!
These are just a few tips to keep you on the road towards your fitness goals! If you are injured, stop into Foot and Ankle Associates of North Texas – we can get you back on the run!