How to prevent common running injuries

Don’t let an injury sideline you; prepare for all eventualities, and run safely without pain holding you back

How to prevent common running injuries
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Reduce the chance of injury by following our great advice, and say goodbye to long-term timeouts and interruptions.

Keep the warming up and cooling down routines you have already established for every run that you do, focusing on loosening up the hips, calves, quads and hamstrings. 

Warming up your body will limit the chance of pulling something, and cooling down will reduce the onset of aches and pains that can leave you sore and unable to train. Stretching out regularly or taking part in a yoga or Pilates class will increase your flexibility and improve your running in the long run.

Paying attention to your body is a must; never push yourself too far. If you experience pain that doesn’t subside after a walk break and stretch, then end the session. If you are feeling sore, then either do a small easy run or skip the session completely and go for a swim or bike ride. Resting isn’t a bad thing, and it is necessary for a full recovery, even if you’re currently feeling fit and well.

Don’t rely on running solely as your main fitness source, as overdoing it can lead to injury due to the impact that it puts on your joints. Fit some strength training in so that the muscles are continually strengthening and growing stronger. Other cardio workouts, such as cycling and swimming, are good for this, as they are low-impact, which gives your body a rest from the motion of running. Work on your core muscles, stomach and back for stability; yoga is perfect for targeting these areas. Don’t forget to work on the legs and glutes by doing repeats of squats and lunges. 

Mix all of these exercises with calf raises, heel dips and leg extensions to strengthen the hips plus try to include some weight lifting to tone up and help build stamina. When training, never increase the distance too dramatically. Once you can run for 20 minutes solidly, gently increase the time by five minutes each week. Never increase the distance per week by more than a mile/kilometre, and continue to slowly build up to your desired distance or time goal. If you find you are struggling, then add in a walk break until you can run the time without stopping.

Pyramid to training success

The pyramid technique of training works well. Starting off at base level, slowly decrease and increase your walk/run minutes until you can run 10, 15 and 20 minutes solidly. Once you’re at this level, you will have the basic level of fitness to progress to a 5 or 10K goal. Here is a sample pyramid plan to get the best from your training and remain fit and healthy.

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Level one

Start off with the walk/ run method, ensuring your warm-up and cool down properly.

Level two

Increase the running time and decrease the walk breaks gradually by no more than a minute every couple of runs. Introduce more stretching such as hip extensions, calf raises, heel dips, downward dog and bridge.

Level three

Begin to increase time or distance, by no more than five minutes per week, or 1km/1 mile in distance. Incorporate other less impact-based cardio workouts, such as swimming or cross-training.

(Image credit: Future)

Level four

Continue the gradual increase in your running with longer times or further distance. Remember to work on stretching, core strengthening and other cardio activities to keep your overall strength and fitness at a constant level.

(Image credit: Future)

Level five

Have the occasional rest week. Still cross-train, swim and stretch, but limit your runs to one or two easy ones. Taking a break is beneficial, allowing the body to repair and strengthen.

Level six

Add in some weight training, targeting specific areas: glutes, hips, calves, quads, hamstring and the core. Using a balance ball can help make it more intense.

(Image credit: Future)

Level seven

Have a good varied plan. Strength training and stretching is vital, so always include them in your week. Always prepare for races with training like this for best results from you and your body