Running injuries suck.
I know. I’ve been there.
You think you’re doing everything right to increase your mileage without your body breaking down, and then you notice a little niggle.
You don’t pay much attention to it at first, figuring it will just go away.
But it doesn’t go away, does it? Nope, and now it’s screaming at you and there’s no chance you can ignore it any longer.
Like I said, running injuries suck.
But running injuries aren’t a matter of destiny. Believe it or not, in many cases running injuries are preventable.
Don’t believe me? Think I’m full of shit? Believe that eliminating running injuries from your life is simply too good to be true?
Avoiding running injuries is much simpler than you might think.
Allow me to explain…
Different Types of Running Injuries
There are two types of injuries that may have to deal with over the course of your running career: acute injuries and chronic injuries.
What’s the difference between the two?
These are the kinds of injuries that just happen. Honestly, they are the kinds of injuries that are virtually impossible to prevent. Here are a few examples of running injuries that would be classified as acute in nature:
- Tripping and falling over a stick on the road/trail, resulting in a scrap/cut/dislocated joint/broken bone.
- Twisting an ankle stepping off of a curb/into a hole/on an uneven surface.
- Getting hit by a car. (Seriously y’all, be careful out there. When it comes to cars v runners, cars win. Every. Single. Time.)
Acute injuries happen in the blink of an eye. That’s why it’s hard to really prevent them, other than by reminding you to be aware of where you are running, what’s going on around you, and making sure you’re taking all of the proper precautions.
Chronic injuries, also referred to as overuse injuries, are definitely more common to impact runners than acute injuries are. Chronic injuries tend to gradually get worse over time, little by little, until you can’t take it any more. Here are a few examples of some chronic running injuries:
- Plantar fasciitis
- Shin splints
- Iliotibial band syndrome
- Stress fracture
Chronic/overuse injuries are, in many cases, preventable.
That said, many runners either are unaware that some of the aches and pains they are feeling are really signs and/or symptoms of a more serious injury that is brewing. So they ignore the discomfort, keep logging the miles, and pretty soon they are on the shelf because of one of these chronic running injuries.
And that doesn’t have to be the case.
Preventing Running Injuries
Preventing running injuries is easier than you might think.
That said, staying injury free over several years of running rarely happens by accident, especially if you’re serious about training hard and training consistently.
Do you want to know the real secret when it comes to preventing running injuries?
Pay attention to your body!
Our bodies do an amazing job of alerting us when something is wrong, yet we do a terrible job of paying attention to the things our body is telling us.
What are some of the common warning signs of a potential running injury?
- Pain/discomfort that persists during a run. It’s one thing to feel tight/stiff/achy when you first start running, but if that pain/discomfort doesn’t go away within the first mile or so, that’s a pretty good sign that it’s more than just a little niggle.
- Pain/discomfort increases in intensity. If I had a quarter for every time I heard a runner say they felt something in their <insert injured body part here> that just kept getting worse but they pushed through it because “reasons”… I’d have a lot of quarters. I might not be able to retire just yet, but I’d at least be able to take a roll or two to the bank and get some cash.
- Pain/discomfort doesn’t go away when you’re finished running. This seems so obvious, yet many runners still fail to recognize that being in pain long after a run is finished really isn’t normal!
When you notice any of these signs, it’s time to take a break.
Rest is a good thing, and should already be a regular part of your training plan. But resting isn’t enough to keep all of your potential running injuries at bay.
Rest will help eliminate the symptoms, but the root of the problem still must be taken care of.
If you can effectively address the root of the problem, you can essentially eliminate the risk of developing that injury ever again.
An Ounce of Prevention…
When it comes to preventing running injuries, it really is the case of an ounce of prevention being worth a pound (or more!) of cure.
There are many things you can incorporate into your routine that can really help in the quest to prevent running injuries. Such as:
- Strength Training: Running (or any other repetitive motion activity) creates some serious muscle imbalances. Doing strength training exercises that focuses specifically on the muscles that are ignored by running can help to eliminate those imbalances and dramatically reduce the risk of injury.
- Increased Flexibility: You may have heard that there is no proof that stretching leads to a decrease in injury risk. And while that is true (it really is), there are still benefits to stretching. And speaking from personal experience, I feel a lot better when I’ve been stretching regularly than when I get lazy regarding my flexibility.
- Rest: How much sleep do you get at night? On your rest days, do you end up on you feet for hours or do you really chill? Do you even take rest days? The simple fact is that our bodies need rest in order to do the repair work necessary for us to get stronger/faster/run farther. so make sure you’re getting plenty of sleep at night and make sure that you’re resting as much as possible on your off days.
- Eat Healthy Food: The quality of the food you’re putting into your body matters. If all you eat is processed crap, your body won’t function as well as if you’re eating fresh, healthy, real food. I’m not saying you can’t enjoy a donut or a bowl of ice cream on occasion, but the vast majority of your food choices should be high quality, nutrient dense food.
- Stay Hydrated: I’m not the best when it comes to drinking enough water (coffee on the other hand…) but I’m getting better. But there is no doubt that we function better when we are adequately hydrated. So keep that water bottle handy.
And this is just the tip of the ice berg when it comes to things you can do the help prevent running injuries. There’s also cross training, massage/foam rolling, ice baths, and many more options.
But here’s the thing, you don’t have to do all of them!
Doing a little something every day will dramatically reduce your risk of dealing with a running injury.
So unless you like the idea of a raging case of the -itis…
Are You Sick of Dealing with Running Injuries?
I know a few things about running injuries.
And I want to help you kick your injuries once and for all.
Because running is a whole lot more fun when you don’t find yourself in pain because of it.
If you ever have any questions about running injuries that you may be dealing with, let me know and I’ll do my best to help you solve the puzzle and get back to running without the pain as soon as possible.
And make sure you check out my guide to the 5 Most Overlooked Exercises for Runners, which is a great place to start for runners that are unsure of what strength training exercises are good for them and/or runners that would like to add some variety to their current routine.
The guide is 100% free, just click the link above and I’ll send the guide right to your inbox!