The Beginners Guide to Preventing Running Injuries and Enhancing Performance

Spring is almost here! If the beautiful weather is inspiring you to get out there and start running either after a long hiatus or for the first time, read on.

In this article we’re focusing on supporting your body as it gets adjusted to the demands of running, so you can reduce the risk of injuries and channel all that newfound energy towards running that extra mile.

Alternate Forms of Exercise are Key

We know you’re probably excited and want to give running all you’ve got, but as a beginner runner it is very important to slowly increase how much pressure you put on your joints so you can prevent injuries. Even though we strongly encourage you not to run 5-7 times per week at the beginning, this doesn’t mean you have to slow down- keep the momentum going by integrating swimming, biking, or the elliptical into your regimen. Alternating between these different forms of exercise will allow you to go easy on your joints while building the cardiovascular endurance and strength that will get you ready to start running more often.

Strength Training: We Strongly Recommend it

As a beginner runner, it’s also important to Integrate strength training into your regimen in the form of runner-specific exercises. This will help your bones, tendons, ligaments, and muscles become better able to sustain the impacts of your new hobby. Keep in mind that strength training not only decreases your risk of injury and pain, it can actually improve performance, particularly if you’re integrating heavy resistance exercises into the mix.

There are a few areas that any un-injured runner can target to improve their running. Doing low impact exercises like single-leg squats or single-leg balances strengthens the muscles we most use while running while also building coordination and balance. Muscles that need to be strengthened will also vary depending on your body and the type of running you’re doing. Strengthening underdeveloped hamstrings, for example, can improve the performance of most un-injured endurance runners. Having a PT observe your running technique will let them pin point exactly what muscles need to be strengthened and the most efficient and low-impact ways to do so.

Watch Out for These Pains

In addition to this list of warnings signs (link to How to Properly Train for Long Distance Running) you should also keep an eye out for these specific but common running pains. These often arise as you get deeper into your running regimen, which often exposes misalignments and inadequacies.

HIPS. Common for many women, misalignment and poor control of the hip can lead to pain in this area. Imbalances in the hip are also to blame for iliotibial band syndrome, which shows up as pain in the outside of the knee. A PT can help you work on aligning and gaining more control of your hip while you run to decrease pain.

KNEES.  Knees are the single most at risk site for injuries in your body- in fact, anterior knee injuries account for 20% of all running injuries. Watch out for any over-striding and instead try to shorten your stride to reduce the stress in your heels, since this pressure can cause patallefemoral syndrome, more commonly known as runner’s knee.

FEET.  Experiencing pain in your feet? Achilles tendinitis, plantar fascilitis, or overpronation are common culprits. Consult with a PT to switch to better footwear or begin a safe exercise regimen, both of which have been found helpful for foot injuries.

OVER 40?  Watch out for any pain in your tendons or calfs, as these could mean an Achilles injury. Also pay attention to any pain in soft tissues, which increasingly become sites of injuries as you age.

UNDER 30?  Watch out for any pain in the longest bone of your foot, which connects to your second toe. These are common spots for stress fractures in runners under 30. Getting instruction from your PT on how to reduce the impact of running on your legs and feet significantly reduce the risk of stress fractures.

Don’t ignore these aches and let them turn into injuries that stand in your way. Don’t let inefficiencies stand in the way of the runner you could become either. Incorporate these tips into your running regimen and reach out to us with any questions or to let us know how your first few runs are working out!  

To get more guidance Click here to sign up for a 60 minute full body comprehensive running assessment by a Doctor of Physical Therapy who is a running biomechanics expert. 

Assessment includes flexibility and strength screening, video gait analysis, footwear evaluation, and on the spot advice to improve your running performance.