Running is one of the most effective workouts, but also one very likely to cause injuries. Statistics indicate that as many as 82% of runners will be injured at some point during their running career. One of the main reasons is the high-impact nature of running that subjects the body to repetitive stress, with impact forces of 1.5 to 5 times an individual’s body weight.
Common overuse injuries include shin splints, plantar fasciitis, runner’s knee, piriformis syndrome and iliotibial band syndrome. Most can be treated with rest, ice, anti-inflammatories, stretches and strength training.
Although injuries are common, they don’t have to be inevitable. Consider the following recommendations regarding how to prevent running injuries:
- Equip yourself properly. It may seem obvious, but don’t run in beat-up, old cross training shoes. Buy new shoes specifically designed for running – ideally from a specialty store that can evaluate your feet and gait for issues such as pronation, flat feet, etc., and make corresponding footwear recommendations. For your safety, wear reflective clothing if you plan on being out at dawn or dusk.
- Use correct form. Many people have no idea what correct running form is, or what they look like when they run. It’s worth it to check some online resources on running form, or consult with a running coach or trainer to ensure that you are aligned properly. For recreational and endurance runners, that should encompass:
- Head – look forward naturally (not up or down), and don’t let the chin jut forward
- Shoulders – hold shoulders down low, loose and relaxed
- Arms – hold at a 90-degree angle and swing forward and back between the waist and chest with a powerful backward drive; relax hands
- Torso – maintain upright posture with an open chest, without slouching
- Hips/glutes – pelvis should be neutral and not tilted forward or back, or excessively shift laterally
- Legs – lift knees slightly, turnover the legs quickly and maintain short strides
- Ankles/feet – hit the ground lightly and do not slap down; land between heel and midfoot and quickly roll onto toes
- Runners need to stretch their entire bodies, especially the legs, for optimum performance and injury prevention. It’s best to stretch after a run when the muscles are warm and pliable. Include stretches for the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, glutes, hips and back; you can ask a trainer or check online for suggestions. Hold stretches and don’t bounce. Yoga is another way to promote flexibility and core strength to combat the tightness that running fosters.
- Reduce impact by cross training. Give your body a break from constant pounding by using the elliptical, stairclimber, stationary bike or the new Zero Runner. The unique Zero Runner lets you use your natural gait and stride, just like running outside, without any impact. The Zero Runner’s hip and knee joints fully support runners so they can concentrate on form and benefit from running-specific training without the stress. Stride tracing technology on the Zero Runner enables users to easily monitor the health of their stride.
Even more, CROSS CiRCUIT on the Zero Runner is a valuable training program that combines running segments with intervals of strength training and flexibility exercises. These sessions can improve stamina, along with strength and stability, for better running performance and a reduced risk of injury.
Don’t ignore pain. Minor soreness or acute tightness generally can be self-treated with ice, stretches and rest. Do not run through chronic or severe pain, or you risk greater injury. See a physician early to diagnose and treat the issue so that you can get back to running sooner.