Running is one of the most popular leisure sports in the world, and the popularity of the sport continues to rise. According to Running USA, the number of runners who have competed in at least one running event rose from 4.7 million in 1990 to more than 19 million in 2013.
Unfortunately for many runners, injuries are also common. The overall yearly incidence of running injuries is estimated to be between 37 and 56 percent. Most of these injuries are lower extremity injuries, with knee injuries being particularly common. While the underlying cause of running injuries — such as shin splints, knee injuries and ankle injuries — aren’t entirely clear, about 50 to 75 percent of running injuries appear to be overuse injuries due to the constant repetition of the same movement.
Other factors that may increase a runner’s risk of injury include: excess body weight, overstriding, quality of running shoes, weak or unstable hips, running barefoot or running on unstable surfaces.
How to prevent running injuries
The good news is that many running injuries can be prevented. Here are some tips to help you have a safe and injury-free spring running season.
Watch your landing. The continual pounding of your feet on the pavement may increase your risk of injury. Think about landing softly by landing closer to the middle of your foot rather than your heel.
Increase cadence. Cadence is the number of steps per minute. A slight increase in cadence reduces the amount of pounding with each stride.
Find a running coach. Working with a coach can be particularly helpful if you are new to running. A coach will help you adjust form to reduce your risk of injury and can design a training program suited for you and your goals.
Gradually increase distance. Be careful not to increase distance too quickly. As you train for a race, increase your training distance no more than 10 percent per week.
Rest. Giving your muscles time to rest and recover is important for preventing serious injuries. But resting doesn’t mean you have to take a day off from exercise completely. Take a load off by swimming or doing another low-impact exercise periodically throughout the week.
Focus on nutrition and hydration. What you put into your body is also important for preventing injury. Keep yourself hydrated and get the right nutrition to keep your body strong and healthy. Talk to a registered dietitian who can develop an eating plan to suit your training program.
Never stretch cold muscles. Stretching is an important component of injury prevention, but stretching cold muscles may actually increase your risk of injury. Only once you've warmed up should you spend five to 10 minutes doing active stretching to prep for your workout.
Build your strength. Strength training is essential to any running training program. Resistance training helps increase the endurance and stability of your muscles. The stronger your legs, the better they will be able to support your joints. Strong hips and a strong core are also important in preventing running injuries.
Listen to your body. If you are experiencing pain that doesn’t go away or think you may be developing an injury, give yourself time to rest. Persistent soreness or pain may be an early sign of injury, and taking proper care can help prevent a more serious injury.
If you think your pain may be more than post-workout soreness, contact the experts at Goshen Health Orthopedics and Sports Medicine. Early treatment of a running injury can improve chances of a quick, full recovery.