8 Injury Prevention Strategies for Runners

Taking care of the small details related to running can keep you healthy

Whoever said running was simply putting our left foot in front of our right has never seriously trained for a race. There is SO much that goes into healthy running – it can very easily be a full-time job just staying healthy! It’s no wonder there are careers built around keeping runners healthy – from acupuncture to massage therapy, cryotherapy and everything in between, there is an entire ecosystem of help to keep runners upright.

Since there is so much more to running than just the running, I’ll outline some of the important areas that we can focus on to see bigger results from the running that we do.

These tips are all things we can do – and they don’t take a lot of time, either – that add up and make a huge difference in our running.  Not only do I do indulge in most of these quick actions, but I ask my runners to perform them as well.


8 Places Runners Can Prevent Injuries

Correct Muscle Imbalances

One of the most aggravating injuries we can deal with as runners are muscles that aren’t equally as strong. If one muscle group works harder (or in essence, less than) another, you get a muscle imbalance. What this means is that while one muscle group is working like normal, one is weaker and doing less work or having to work harder to keep up. Either way, an imbalance forms and the weaker muscles gets tired. When a tired muscles can’t keep up the demand being put on it, it fails. This could be a cramp, a tear, or a strain.

To combat muscle imbalances, a runner needs to be doing strength exercises to maintain a level of strength just to be a runner, but more importantly, to keep muscles equally strong. It’s no good to have really strong hamstrings, only to have inferior quads. Without muscle balance there are a number of potential injuries that can occur.


Active Stretching

Are your muscles and tendons creaky before you head out for a run? Even if you’re a spry and limber runner, you’ll want to include some active stretching into your pre-run routine. Even 5 minutes of active stretching can improve the quality of your run.

Some quick active stretching you can perform include stretching your quads, calves, hamstrings, hip flexors, arms and back muscles.

Active stretching prior to a run will increase blood flow to runner-specific areas of your body, improve flexibility and balance, and allow for a full range of motion when running.


Static Stretching

Active stretching is before a run; static stretching is after. This is where you’d stretch your hamstring, for example, without moving it. Static stretching is great for after a workout because your muscles are already warmed up, loose and available to stretch.

Static stretching is supposed to bring your muscles “back to a normal state” and a few minutes of static stretching can help alleviate soreness. Basic stretches you can and should do: calf stretch, hamstring & quad stretch, IT band. These 4 are the minimum stretches you really should be doing, there are obviously a lot more.


Cross Train

If you’d like to add to your weekly mileage, you’ll want to get in some time cross training. There are various types of cross training and it’ll take some trial and error for you to find what works for you and what you enjoy doing.

Some examples include swimming, aqua jogging, elliptical, yoga, or any other low-impact cardio workout. Rest days – or days you aren’t scheduled to run – are great for doing 30-60 minutes of low-impact, high aerobic work to help flush away waste products.

These are the 8 strategies I’d use if I was injured. So tell me, either in the comments or on social, what the first thing you’d do if you found yourself with an injury!


Elevate

After really hard days, I find that putting my legs up and above my heart is a fantastic way to start the recovery process. Elevating my legs for even 5-10 minutes post-run helps drain lactic acid buildup and helps promote blood flow from my tired legs.


Rest Days

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve resorted to more rest days in between hard days. I find that I don’t recover as quickly when I run 5 or more days in a week. The amount of days I actually use as rest days varies per week and depends on what I’m training for, but a rest day for me is complete rest. Sure, I’m still active (I get 10,000 steps daily), but I leave the strenuous activity for days that aren’t rest days.

For some, a rest day might be some light yoga, stretching or meditation. Others consider a rest day to mean no running, but yes to strength training or cross training. However you decide to incorporate rest into your plan is up to you.


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Find Trainwithmarc on Instagram

Massage Therapy

Possibly my favorite form of injury prevention (besides a rest day, of course) is massage therapy. This can come in a variety of ways. Some prefer active release, others a massage. However you are breaking up scar tissue and manipulating muscles to relieve pain is up to you.

What do you do when you have a running injury you can’t shake? Marc has 8 ideas for you!

Cryotherapy

This type of recovery is still relatively new. What’s not new is what we all used to do: ice down our sore muscles and joints. Now, there’s spots popping up that do cryotherapy and the results speak for themselves.

While, I personally haven’t done cryotherapy yet, I am hoping that I’ll get the chance in the near future. We have an amazing set of doctors in our area and one of the services they provide is cryotherapy. If you’re in the Haddon Township area (Cherry Hill, Haddonfield) you should absolutely be checking out Dr. Shane McCann and his team.

His details are here: 56 N Haddon Ave, Haddonfield, NJ 08033; (856) 240 – 7529; https://srlhaddonfield.com/

Summary:

Running is a pretty simple activity, however, a lot goes into keeping a runner healthy and upright. The minutes and hours you spend not running are instrumental in determining how much you can run. The 8 strategies I outlined above play an important, yet often overlooked roll in the quality and quantity of miles you can safely put in. Simply put: the better you take care of yourself while you’re not running, the more running you’ll be able to do.


Did you find this article helpful? Let me know by leaving a comment below or join the conversation on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

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Dr. Jack Daniels VDOT & USATF Certified Running Coach
Dr. Jack Daniels VDOT & USATF Certified Running Coach

Marc is a USATF Track and Field & Dr. Jack Daniels VDOT O2 certified running coach. I have more than 19 years of experience running and more than 10 years of experience coaching runners. Click for more information!


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7 thoughts on “8 Injury Prevention Strategies for Runners

  1. I do not do enough warm up before running. Most of my injuries are over use and I probably need to be better about stretching in general. Thanks for the reminder

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  2. Active stretching and rest days make a huge difference for me! Great tips and a good reminder for all runners!

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  3. I’m getting better about stretching during my current training cycle. One thing that helps me stay (relatively) injury free is doing many different forms of cross training and strength training.

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  4. Are you doing activation drills prior to running? Or just stretching afterward? In the next few weeks I’m hoping to have a post about the drills I do.

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  5. Thanks Laura. I agree that active stretching is a big part of a healthy runner’s routine.

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  6. You got it! Even 5-10 minutes before a run will play huge dividends throughout your run.

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  7. Great tips! I too found as I got older that I needed to pay more attention to my recovery. It’s hard sometimes when you just want to run, but it pays off in the end.

    As a fascial stretch therapist, I’d add getting an occasional assisted stretch by a qualified FST practitioner alongside your massage recommendation. It feels great, has all the advantages of a massage, is pain-free, and actually helps with some of the balance that a runner needs.

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