On Your Mark, Get Set, Stretch!
But what about “go?”
Many runners, athletes, and sports enthusiasts are often so concerned with the “go” aspect, that they forget to focus on the quintessential things they need to do before the “go.”
Running remains one of the most popular ways Americans seek fitness, with 10% to 20% running regularly. Even if you do not consider yourself a dedicated runner, the act of running is usually an integral part of any sport, workout, or physical activity (especially when you are in a rush).
Running injuries can occur at a variety of points on the body: hip, knee, leg, ankle, foot, and even spine. Evidence suggests that 40% to 50% of runners experience injuries yearly. To help keep runners of every level safe, the Sports Medicine Team at EmergeOrtho–Triangle Region specialize in not only healing running injuries, but also preventing them.
Top Ten Injury Prevention Tips for Running
Take a look at some helpful tips for preventing running injuries, suggested by our EmergeOrtho–Triangle Region fellowship-trained Sports Medicine Specialists.
Before subjecting your muscles to vigorous activity such as running, it is vital to stretch and warm up the body. There are two types of stretches: dynamic and static. Dynamic stretches are active exercises done to improve range of motion, loosen the muscles and joints, and increase blood flow. Dynamic stretches can not only help prevent injury but if done regularly, can also improve power and performance. Static stretching should be done after your run. Your muscles are at their warmest and most flexible after a run/workout, so stretching them at this point will improve your overall flexibility, reduce muscle soreness, prevent muscle cramps, and decrease the chances of injury. Static stretches involve holding a stretch for five to ten seconds. They help lower your heart rate and end the workout safely.
- Stay Hydrated
Staying hydrated before, during, and after running is one of the most important things a runner can do but is also largely overlooked. Water regulates your body temperature, lubricates your joints, transports nutrients, and keeps energy and stamina high. Dehydration can lead to muscle fatigue and cramps, dizziness, and other serious conditions, like heat illness. The American Council on Exercise suggests the following for water consumption before, during, and after exercise:
- Drink 17 to 20 ounces of water two to three hours before you start exercising
- Drink eight ounces of water 20 to 30 minutes before you start exercising or during your warm-up
- Drink seven to ten ounces of water every 10 to 20 minutes during exercise
- Drink eight ounces of water no more than 30 minutes after you exercise
- Increase Time & Distance Gradually
Many people may be inclined to push themselves to their limits when beginning a run, but progression is key to preventing injuries. If your muscles are not used to running for long periods of time and/or far distances, overexerting them can lead to an unexpected strain or sprain. Everyone is different, but it is generally recommended that increases in training volume, distance, duration, and intensity should gradually increase 5% to 10% per week.
- Incorporate Strength Training
Strength training provides a multitude of benefits to runners. It improves posture and joint stability, conditions your joints and muscles, keeps your body properly aligned, and reduces muscle fatigue. Incorporate a strength-training program that focuses on all muscles in the body, and gradually increase reps and weight over time (remember to always listen to your body and consult a doctor).
- Find Proper Running Shoes
Running shoes are not one size fits all in more ways than one. Besides the fact that people need different sizes, many people have certain needs that should be met by their running shoes. Having the correct running-shoe fit often means the difference between sustaining an injury or not. Given that running shoes are the most important pieces of equipment to a runner, it is important to purchase a pair that is well-fitted, suits your foot shape, and supports your running style.
- Obtain a Gait Analysis
A gait analysis is an in-depth look at the way your body moves when you run. It is an analysis of an individual’s level of mobility, stability, flexibility, and functional strength. It will not only help identify improper technique or dysfunctional movement patterns, but it will also help you identify which running shoes are best for you and your needs.
Even with proper technique and the incorporation of injury-prevention exercises, running can take its toll on the body, especially the joints through excessive impact with each stride. To combat this, it is important to take periodic breaks from running and switch it up with other methods of aerobic exercise.
- Take Advantage of the R.I.C.E. Method
R.I.C.E. stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. When you have muscle aches or joint pains, this technique is crucial to injury prevention. When done immediately at the start of symptoms, it can relieve pain, reduce inflammation, protect damaged tissues, and speed up the healing process.
- Run on an Even Surface
Running on uneven or hard surfaces, such as concrete, steps, or rock formations, can throw off your balance and cause excessive impact to your joints. Find a level, softer surface, such as what is found on dirt trails, bike paths, or treadmills.
- Listen to Your Body
Some injuries are instantaneous, but others are gradual and happen over time. Your body usually emits signals to let you know that something is wrong, but it is up to you to listen to the signs of your body and take appropriate action. If you suspect you are suffering from any injury-related symptoms, it is important to stop running and rest until the symptoms disappear. If they do not disappear, we encourage you to visit us so we can diagnose the issue.
If you have any questions or would like to have a private consultation with one of our Sports Medicine Specialists at EmergeOrtho–Triangle Region on how to create a customized running injury prevention plan, click here to schedule an appointment at one of our locations or contact us at (919) 220-5255.