We've all heard it before: Make sure you warm up, make sure you listen to your body, build gradually and wear the right shoes etc. And yet, after all the guidelines and tips we receive we tend to lace up our runners and then go all out. But pushing past the point of fatigue and tackling all the miles too soon only leads to injury. To ensure a strong, pain-free finish, use the tips below to reduce your risk of injury on the track, road, or trail.
Improve and maintain your flexibility
- Daily stretching is essential to improve and maintain flexibility, which in turn will help improve performance and prevent injuries.
- Stretching should be done after you warm up your muscles, usually about 10 minutes of warm up should be enough.
- Stretching should never be done in a hurry and should include all joints and extremities. Each stretch should be held in place for 30 seconds without bouncing.
- A dynamic stretch that promotes proper hip extension, like a lunge, will reduce internal resistance and improve the efficiency of your stride. Not only will this prime your legs for the early miles, but could be critical to preventing muscle cramps late in a race.
Include strength training in your running program
- Strength training improves a runner's body strength and overall athleticism. This in turn reduces muscular fatigue that leads to poor performance and injuries. Runners will benefit from a program of 2-3 strength training sessions per week.
- Strength training exercises should focus on all muscle groups including the trunk and upper and lower body.
- Weight lifting, plyometrics and hill running are all effective methods of increasing strength.
Stay hydrated and eat a well balanced diet
- Avoid heat exhaustion and dehydration by prehydrating two hours prior to practice or competition with 600mL of fluid and another 300mL after warm-up.
- Take in 6-8 ounces of fluids every 15-20 minutes of exercise.
- Within two hours after exercise, re-hydrate with a pint (20-24 ounces) of fluid for every pound of weight lost during exercise.
- The best fluids to take before, during, and after exercise are a cooled 4-8% carbohydrate solution.
Warm up and cool down before and after all runs and races
- Before practices and competitions it is important to warm up. The faster the workout or race, the longer the warm up needed. A warm up of 5-10 minutes helps to flush out lactic acid build-up in muscles and prevents delayed muscle soreness.
Gradually increase your mileage and periodise your training schedule
- Good aerobic activity is the foundation of your running performance. The principle of progression and periodization means gradually preparing the body to handle workout stress. You slowly build up the amount of training you do along with bumping up the intensity.
- Periodization is the structure in a training program to progressively increase the training stress from cycle to cycle.
- The progression should not be a steady increase in volume and intensity, but instead should be a staircase progression with periods of reduced volume and intensity at certain times during a training period, season, or year.
- Increases in training volume, duration and intensity should be a gradual increase of 5-10% per week.
Cross-train and include rest days in your training schedule
- Cross-training helps to maintain your aerobic fitness while avoiding excessive impact forces from too much running.
- Including rest days in your training schedule allows your body to recover and adapt to a running workout.
Talk with a running expert or coach to analyse your training program
- Overtraining, running injuries and poor performances are often the result of an ineffective training program.
- A good running coach can help you develop an appropriate training schedule to meet your running goals and prevent injury.
Wear the correct type of running shoes based on your foot type and running style
- Not all running shoes are made alike. The type of shoe you need varies depending upon your foot type and style of running. A sports store that specializes in athletic footwear can you help you figure out what style might be best for you.
- Foot type is based upon the structure of your foot and the degree of pronation. Pronation is the normal inward rolling of your foot in running as your foot strikes the ground and transitions into pushing off. Abnormal pronation can lead to injuries.
Have a formal gait analysis performed and use orthotics if recommended
- Poor foot biomechanics such as heel strike, excessive pronation, or a very rigid or very flexible foot arch can lead to inefficiency and injuries.
- Most runners can control these problems by carefully selecting the right shoe type or by seeing an expert that can analyze your running gait and make orthotic inserts specific to your foot structure.
Have your running form evaluated by a running expert
- Better running economy and body awareness are achieved through developing an efficient and smooth running form. A smooth running form requires less energy and delays muscle fatigue.
- A person trained in running biomechanics can help detect flaws in your running form and show you how to correct them.
*Disclaimer: Individual results vary based on agreed goals. Click here for details.