Running is an ever-popular exercise activity. A day does not go by that I don’t see a person running on the side of the road or sidewalk. It requires minimal equipment and doesn’t demand a lot of time out of your busy day. People of all ages participate for general fitness or to train for that next race! Whatever your motivation, running is the main exercise outlet for many people.
One of the greatest challenges for runners is to avoid injuries. Injuries can occur suddenly or can get worse gradually over time. Some injuries may heal quickly while others may linger over an extended period of time. Universally, all runners dislike injuries. No one wants his or her running routine or race training disrupted.
Runners may decrease the likelihood of injuries by following a few basic rules:
- If you are new to running, start slowly. Running will be a new stress to your body. Give it time to adjust. Start with short distances at a comfortable pace.
- Make sure to warm up those muscles by walking a bit before you start your run.
- Make sure to map out an appropriate course/surface to run. A level and more forgiving surface is preferable to hard pavement or uneven terrain.
- Comfortable shoes and socks are a must. Feet come in all shapes and sizes. Not all running shoes are the same! Take the time to be fit properly.
- If you experience soreness after your run, try icing the affected area. Gentle stretching of muscles after your run can also be helpful.
- Don’t plan to run 7 days per week. For most runners, that’s a fast track to injury. Try 2-4 days per week or every other day. Your body needs an opportunity to recover. Cross training with other forms of exercise to mix it up can also help.
- There is some scientific medical evidence that suggests that increasing your running cadence may decrease your chance of running-related injury.
- Proper hydration and nutrition will keep your muscles working to the best of their ability.
- If an injury occurs, make sure to rest and recover fully before resuming running. Seek medical care from a professional if there is persistent pain or swelling. Don’t push through the pain! You may compound the injury and ultimately prolong recovery.
There are numerous health benefits to staying active and exercising regularly. Running is and will continue to be a popular form of exercise. Just remember to run smart and avoid the injury blues!
Stephen Merena, DPM, is a podiatrist in the Department of Orthopedics & Rehabilitation Medicine at the University of Vermont Medical Center. He is also an assistant professor in the Larner College of Medicine at UVM. Watch a video interview with Dr. Merena.