5 Tips for Runners to Help Avoid Injuries
I've had so many questions from runners asking about injuries in the sport and how to prevent injuries from happening. These 5 tips to help you prevent an unnecessary injury when getting ready for marathon season or even for everyday running enthusiasts.
Tip 1: Know Your Climate
Too often I see runners out running in shorts in cold temperatures. This often baffles me as they'll be wearing gloves, hats, scarfs and jumpers on the upper body and then shorts on the lower body. So it’s obviously cold enough for them to add lairs but why miss out the legs?
The answer usually is 'my legs get too warm when running'. However, this happens about 20 minutes into the run. By wearing shorts you'll expose your working muscles to cold temperatures and when this happens the muscle contracts so it'll not work as efficiently through the full range.
This puts the muscles at an increased risk of pulling or tearing if you increase your pace or change direction quickly, especially at the start of the run. The simple solution is to put on leggings or trousers that cover the full leg when the temperature drops - your muscles will thank you for it.
Tip 2: Don’t Always Run on the Road
This might sound strange to many people but only running on the road or pavement can cause serious problems at the knee and hip in later life. The reason for this is our knees have cushions between the bones which are designed to absorb impact, however, if this wears away serious problems can occur.
If you only train on the road for an upcoming marathon and don’t do any trail or grass running, then your knees will be exposed to even greater wear and tear. This stems from early humans when our body adapted to hunting on grass planes and dirt with very little contact on hard surfaces. As such, the knee was assisted by the 'give' of the grass or dirt which aided in shock absorption.
In short, our knees are not adapted to deal with the constant impact on hard concrete and constant running on concrete can lead to a higher chance of injury.
An easy fix when training for a marathon or running is to have an even split between grass and road running when working on stamina and if possible weight your runs with more grass than road running. If you're concerned with the marathon being all on the road you can increase the road training a couple of weeks before the event to help prevent overloading the knee joints over months of training.
Tip 3: Warm-Ups MatterI know what you’re thinking, “I already do a warm up so I’m fine”, but is your warm up long enough? Believe it or not, the warm-up is the most important part of any race or run. A warm up is designed to get all the muscles you are about to use firing effectively and efficiently and prevent the chance of injuries. If your warm up is too short then your muscles will be sluggish which can reduce your performance.
Now this might shock you, an effective warm up for your standard training session should last a minimum of 20 minutes and incorporate a mixture of jogging, running, dynamic stretching (high knees), functional full body movements (Spiderman crawl) and some sprints to engage both slow and fast twitch muscle fibres.
A competition warm-up should last about 40 minutes with a focus on the muscles you will be using. It might feel like a training session but this increased warm up can greatly increase your performance in the race and won't tire you out like many people think.
It will also completely warm up the muscles and help prevent injury when running due to the muscles being more supple.
The easy fix is to increase your warm up.
Tip 4: Cool Your Body Down
Do you perform a cool down after your run? The majority of people will warm up in some form or another but a staggering few people will perform a cooldown. Instead, they'll finish their run, go home and sit down. A cooldown is just as important as a warm up, it is essentially the warm-up in reverse.
The reason we need to perform a cooldown is to allow the muscle to gradually reduce temperature and movement. If you stop immediately after doing a lot of exercise the muscles will tighten up causing a wide variety of issues - lack of flexibility being one of them.
The solution here is to add in a cool down and stretch at the end of your session if you don’t already. A regular sports massage could also help your muscles and flexibility.
Tip 5: Stay Hydrated
This is a simple one - drink plenty fluids when training/running. The majority of runners suffer from cramp at one point or another and the main mechanism of cramp is dehydration. Now, this is not just water: when you sweat you lose salts, sugars and water so all three will need to be consumed as an isotonic drink to help prevent cramp from occurring and keep the muscles firing efficiently.
I hope these tips to prevent injuries will help your future runs so that you can enjoy the fresh air safely and effectively.
Sports Injury Clinics in Edinburgh & Glasgow
If you've already suffered an injury from running, or have a nagging problem that won't go away, visit our sports injury clinic in Edinburgh or Glasgow. We'll assess your issue and aim to get you back to full running mode as soon as possible.