8 Easy Ways to Prevent Running Injuries

8 Easy Ways to Prevent Running Injuries

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Some runners are plagued with aches and pains…are you one of them?

Learning how to prevent running injuries will drastically increase your enjoyment of the sport!

So I’m going to let you in on a little secret.

Are you ready?

Running doesn’t have to hurt.

And there are ways to prevent running injuries.

Yup, you heard that right.

From IT band to hamstring issues, to runner’s knee, and more, many of these injuries are preventable (not all, but many).

How?

Keep reading to learn 8 easy ways to prevent running injuries and become a happy, healthy runner in no time!

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8 Simple Ways to Prevent Running Injuries Now

1.) Don’t Increase Mileage Too Quickly

Prevent Running Injuries - Mileage

Have you heard of the 10% rule?

When I first started running long distances, I was new to it all.

I didn’t know how to correctly increase my weekly mileage, or my long run miles. I wasn’t following a good training plan.

And guess what happened?

I got injured.

My poor hamstring muscle was victim to increasing my long run distance too much week over week, and I paid for that mistake for months.

The general rule of thumb is to only increase your weekly or long run mileage by 10% week over week.

Any more than that, and you risk a running injury because your body isn’t prepared for the extra workload yet.

This is one of the easiest ways to prevent running injuries – simply follow a well-designed training plan that correctly ramps up the mileage by 10%  from one week to the next.

2.) Do Strength Training

Prevent Running Injuries - Strength Training

Like #1 above, I also failed in strength training when I first started running.

I thought “runners only run, right?”…wrong.

Sure, if you only plan on ever running 1 or 2 miles at a time, you probably don’t have to do strength training. You win.

But if you want to get faster, or run further, or more frequently…you need strength training in your life.

I’d start with Strength Training for Runners: 8 Easy Moves for Beginners. It shows the basics to get you started!

Runners should focus on abs, glutes, hamstrings, quads and hips to build a strong running foundation.

Don’t be like “beginner runner” me who ignored strength…it caused me many injuries( and they were all avoidable)!

3.) Warm up and Cool Down Properly

Prevent Running Injuries - Stretching

Preparing your body for exercise is important. It’s another way you prevent running injuries.

What to Do:

Do a 5-10 minute warmup before running. Some runners walk, others do a combo walk + dynamic (not static) stretches.

And always cool down after a run too. Again, you simply want to get your heart rate back to normal, and stretch the muscles out too. 5-10 minutes of cool down is all you need, but do more if you want.

Static stretching is perfectly ok to do after exercise because your muscles are already warmed up.

Try these 10 Post-Workout Stretches for Improved Recovery (which also includes 3 bonus dynamic stretches for pre-workout as well).

4.) Learn to Love Foam Rolling

Prevent Running Injuries - Foam Rolling

Foam rolling is a form of self-myofascial release – which is a fancy way of saying it massages your muscles to release tightness.

Foam rolling is a cheap alternative to getting massages all the time (though I highly recommend getting an occasional massage…it’s a lovely treat for hard-working runners!).

The LuxFit 18″ Foam Roller is only $13.95 – massages are, what, $60-$100 per hour?

Definitely worth buying a foam roller (I own 3 different types…I practice what I preach haha).

But why? What is the benefit of foam rolling and how does it prevent running injuries?

Great question!

Learn the ins and outs of foam rolling with The Complete Guide to Foam Rolling for Runners, but in summary, foam rolling releases the knots and tightness that builds up in your muscles after exercising. This increases blood flow to the muscles and aids in recovery.

Why are tight muscles and knots bad?

Tight muscles can cause imbalances, which in turn cause changes to your normal running form….which (you guessed it)….results in injuries.

5.) Maintain Flexibility

Prevent Running Injuries - Flexibility

A flexible runner is less likely to be injured.

Imagine a rubber band – a normal rubber band is flexible when you stretch it.

But a stiff, brittle rubber band breaks when stretched, right?

Well, muscles are the same.

A flexible muscle is like the new rubber band: it maintains it’s integrity when flexed and doesn’t break under strain. But if you never improve your flexibility, your muscles will be like the old stiff rubber band (read: running injury waiting to happen).

So how do you improve flexibility?

Stretching and yoga are two excellent choices.

We already talked about stretching earlier (reminder: here are 10 stretches to try). That can be done daily. It’s low impact and so easy to do after a warm up or after exercise.

But yoga is one of my favorite methods of maintaining flexibility because it has like 3 awesome benefits in one activity: it improves flexibility, increases strength in all the right places and more, and provides wonderful mental health benefits too.

Want to try yoga? Check out Yoga for Runners: 12 Poses for Beginners or sign up for a local yoga class (my favorite is heated yoga, but any kind of yoga is completely acceptable).

6.) Practice Proper Running Form

Prevent Running Injuries - Proper Form

I have also experienced this issue firsthand – bad running form causes injuries.

Running coaches around the world don’t harp on proper running form for no good reason – your running body mechanics are meant to work a certain way, and if you deviate from that, you will likely experience an injury (because your muscles have to work overtime to compensate for the incorrect form).

So what is proper running form?

Learn all about Proper Running Form Tips here, but in summary, you want correct alignment, the right foot strike, an acceptable cadence and a good arm swing.

I know this ends up sounding over-complicated, but it’s not that bad once you get the hang of it.

There are tons of running form drills available to help you become more aware of your form, and improve it if necessary.

Bonus tip: have your form assessed by a professional (especially if you plan on running a half marathon or marathon anytime soon).

7.) The Right Running Gear

Prevent Running Injuries - Get the Right Gear

Ah, running gear.

Another one of those things about running that I ignored (or didn’t understand) when I first started.

Example of my silliness: One winter (before I knew what I was doing), I decided to run in the winter (I had never done this before, back then). So I donned my best long, fluffy parka, and about 15 cotton layers of clothing, with 2 hats and 2 pairs of gloves.

I looked ridiculous.

I made it less than 2 miles before calling it a day, complete with blisters (from the cotton getup) and a sore hip. I never went out running again that winter. (I now run straight through the winter because I finally figured out how to run in the cold weather).

Why did I fail that winter?

Everything I wore was wrong. Cotton…too many layers…the wrong running shoes…ugh.

Running gear can make or break your running experience. I cannot emphasize this enough.

And then there’s different types of conditions:

Wearing the right gear, even at it’s most basic (performance material and not cotton, getting the right running sneakers, etc) will help prevent running injuries!

8.) Fuel Your Body With Quality Nutrition & Hydrate Properly

Prevent Running Injuries - Food and Water

Last, but not least – fueling your body properly.

Runners Food 1010: The Ultimate Guide to Nutrition for Runners explains all the details of nutrition for runners. You should read it if you care about fueling your body for running performance.

Some basics to keep in mind:

  • Crap in, Crap out: Meaning if you put only fast food and fatty stuff into your body, you won’t have the energy required to run how you want
  • Hydration is Key: Your body is made up 60% water (some organs and tissues way more), so if you aren’t hydrated, your body can’t perform at it’s best.
  • Pre, Mid and Post Run Nutrition Drives Performance: Learning the right food to eat before, during and after a run is almost as important as what you eat throughout the rest of the day. Learn what to eat with Yummy Long Run Snacks: What to Eat Before, During and After a Run.

I’ve fallen in love with Shalene Flanagan’s running cookbooks (she won the 2017 NYC Marathon, and is originally from my area in Boston!). The recipes are nutritious, designed for athletes, and I haven’t found a bad recipe yet:

The original (try the Fartlek chili!)
The second cookbook, with quicker recipes for busy runners

   

 Ready to Prevent Your Injuries? Take Action!

It’s That Easy To Prevent Running Injuries

Obviously these 8 tips won’t prevent 100% of injuries, but they will make a significant difference in your running life.

From nutrition to stretching to strength training…one takeaway from this article is that serious runners can’t just run and expect to avoid injuries.

You work hard, and want to enjoy your sport – so make sure you follow these tips to keep your body injury-free all year long.

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8 easy ways to prevent running injuries by getting ahead of them. Do you have knee pain, hamstring issues or other running-related injuries? Find out how to avoid them in the future!

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. This information is very general. Please consult with a professional if you have any questions about your health, or specific injuries.

Sources:

https://www.dartmouth-hitchcock.org/ortho/ten_running_tips.html

2 Replies to “8 Easy Ways to Prevent Running Injuries”

  1. There is one more rule that I’ve found super beneficial: the 80/20 rule. Basically, slow down 80% of the time. Like much slower than you think you need to. When I trained for my first half marathon, I constantly felt exhausted and I skipped several workouts because I felt like my body needed a break. On my current training plan, I’ve gotten 97% of my workouts in and I feel AWESOME! https://runningmybestlife.com/80-20-running/

    1. Hi Alexis, that’s great that you’re up to 97% of your workouts! And the 80/20 guideline is a great idea – so many runners feel like they have to run fast every run and it’s definitely not beneficial in the long term.

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