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Running Injury Prevention Strategies | Chiropractor Cedar Falls

Running has become one of the most common forms of physical activity in today’s society. It can be a community building activity, something to cross of a bucket list and most importantly a great way to exercise. It's a sport that everyone can participate in with a good pair of shoes and a little motivation. That said, running can be extremely hard on your body, especially when you are just starting. We are finding that injuries among runners are very common. From shin splints to rolled ankles, no one is immune from getting hurt; however, here are some tips to keep you healthy and on pace.


Avoid doing too much, too fast

When runners are just starting and begin to make progress, they tend to push their limits. Although this is a great way to challenge yourself, it is important that you understand your body has a threshold that when exceeded results in injury. Your mileage should be tracked on both a daily and weekly basis. If you have never done much long-distance running, then your weekly mileage should begin quite low. It is important that as you improve your mileage increases gradually. A consensus among the running community is the rule of 10%. Do not increase your mileage by any more than 10% on a week to week basis. For many runners and new runners specifically, 10% may even be too much of a jump. This is why when preparing for a distance race, whether it is a 10k, half marathon or a marathon it is recommended you start as early as possible. Could you train and complete a half marathon in 6 weeks? Maybe, but the toll it could take on your body and the injury risk you are exposing yourself to are likely not worth it. A recent study showed that runners who only increased their mileage by 3% a week had a much higher rate of success in their upcoming races than runners who ramped up their mileage quicker.

So how do you know where to start? As a new runner, start with short runs and accumulate miles over the week. It is important to understand how far you have been running, so I recommend using an app on your phone such as “Map My Run” to help track each run. As you gradually increase your miles, you will have to begin to listen to your body. If you find that you are feeling fine after running 20 miles a week but when you increase it to 23 miles in a week you have no pains and discomfort, you may have to dial back to 20 miles/week before increasing more gradually.


Don't run through pain

As runners, we all understand some discomfort is a part of the sport. Your legs and feet will likely be sore after a long run; however, if you begin to notice significant pain or discomfort while running, consider taking a break. Breaks can be one of the hardest things to convince a runner to do, but it could save you from a more severe injury. Aside from the occasional rolled ankle, very few running injuries are acute or traumatic. More commonly runners ignore the pain and try to “tough it out” once they start to experience discomfort

This can result in a vicious, recurring injury cycle. What's a recurring injury cycle? It means if you keep stressing an injury by running, you will continue to make it worse and it can become a much more significant issue. Sometimes all it takes is an extra day off when symptoms are minor to allow your body to recover. This is important because if you have an injury, it is very common for your body to adapt by altering your running and walking pattern (your gait).

This can lead you to becoming less efficient while running, developing bad habits or in a worst-case scenario causing an injury somewhere else in your body. Remember, everything is connected; so if you are running with a limp, that biomechanical stress will be placed on a different part of your body. Give your body a chance to recover and if you think that an injury is nagging, have a medical professional look at it. It is much more beneficial to have an injury taken care with a couple of sessions of treatment rather than letting it persist and having to deal with it when it is much more serious, and your recovery time is extended.


Cadence (Stride Length)

The amateur runner may not put much thought into their running beyond putting one foot in front of the other; however, if you are finding yourself with consistent pain in your shins or recurring lower leg injuries the way you run may be the cause. New research has shown that when you take longer strides as you run, the ground reaction force on your legs will be increased. This increased force can lead to more injuries and micro trauma that can lead to chronic injuries and discomfort.

If you think that this may be affecting your ability to run pain-free, try taking some shorter runs and actively think about taking shorter steps while running. Your legs will have to move faster to maintain the same pace as before, but you might find that you are injured less often. It will take some time to retrain your brain to alter your running pattern, but with some regular training, you should be able to make the transition.


Warming up and Flexibility

As with any other sport, it is essential that you warm up appropriately. A great way to warm up your muscles before a run is to perform a dynamic warm up. This means warming up while moving rather than a traditional static stretch.

Some great dynamic exercises to perform before running are:

  1. Forward and Side Lunges

  2. Air Squats

  3. High Knee Marching

  4. Hopping Back and Forth, and Side to Side


These are simple exercises that will get blood flow to the muscles and help prepare you to start your work out.


After your run, it's important to also perform some stretching and/or foam rolling to help your muscles recover. You can use any of your favorite stretches, but plan to spend at least 10-15 minutes stretching.

Foam rolling doesn't require you to spend a great amount of time per region. Some people can get carried away, but you only need to roll out the same spot for 1-2 minutes and move to the next. This is a great tool to help target knots and trigger points in your muscles that may have developed from your work out. If you've gone on an extended run (15 miles +), allow your body to cool down and recover before stretching. When you're running longer distances, your muscles develop micro muscle tears that can be further injured if you stress the tissues (as with a stretch) immediately after the run. Give yourself a couple of hours and make sure you stretch before the end of the day.


Quick Tips

  • Don’t forget to stay hydrated. Water is always essential, but when training regularly your body requires more water than you might think.

  • Fuel your body correctly: As you train you're going to be burning plenty of calories. Remember to replace them with a healthy diet including healthy fats, fruits, vegetables and plenty of protein to aid in your recovery.

  • Have some form of strength training in your program. A workout plan that varies between strength and cardio is essential to safe training, so just because you're training for a cardio event doesn't mean you can neglect the weight room. The stronger you are, the easier it is to prevent injuries. You may even use the weight room to target common weak muscles like the glute medius, hamstrings, etc. that can help you prevent injuries

  • REST. REST. REST. I discussed maintaining a gradual increase in your mileage but remember, your body needs time to recover. You can have an active rest day where you go for a walk or a casual swim but give your body a break while training so it can recover and help you perform to the best of your ability.

  • Consider visiting professionals like those at Cedar Valley Chiropractic that are experienced in managing exercise-related aches and pains. As your training gets more intense and recovery becomes more difficult, therapies like dry needling, cupping and graston have been shown to help athletes’ recover quicker during training and help them reach their maximum performance.

There are plenty of things you can do prevent injuries while training and these are just a starting point. Implement as many of these strategies into your routine as you can, and you will be running pain-free in no time!


Interested in seeing how the Cedar Falls Sports Chiropractic providers Dr. Dugger and Dr. Rasmussen can help you achieve your fitness and health goals? Schedule an appointment today!



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