It might seem ridiculous, but most running injuries are caused by too much running. They’re called overuse injuries, and they can manifest themselves in many ways: plantar Fasciitis, runner’s knee, IT band syndrome, or even the common flu.
The best way to avoid overuse injury is to change up your routine, rest and recover fully at least once every week, and be aware of the little messages your body is sending you. But, many athletes are stubborn to the point of injury. The little ache under your heel this week can mean crutches next month.
I learned these lessons the hard way. After two fall marathons, a winter of base mileage, and a spring full of 5K races, I was running faster than ever before. But, my luck ran out when suffered a stress fracture in my heel. I should have known better.
Here are five foolproof rules for avoiding common overuse injuries:
1. Never streak.
In running parlance, streaking means running every day for months or years at a time. It’s not smart, and it leads to injury. Take a complete day of rest at least once a week.
2. Listen to your body.
If you’re not sleeping well, stressed out at work, or feeling run down, these are signs that you need extra rest. If you feel pain when you run, stop! Missing a few days will not jeopardize your overall fitness.
3. Catch your zzzz’s.
Sleep trumps all over recovery methods. Ice baths, massages, compression socks, and everything else account for the other 10 percent.
Dynamic (movement) stretching before you run helps warm up the muscles and ready your body for the workout ahead. Static (hold and count) stretching is an excellent way to relax and get a jump on recovery afterwards. Regular stretching decreases the tension on your ligaments and tendons, and increases blood flow to repair your damaged muscles.
5. Cross train like a boss.
Runners usually have strong calves and hamstrings, but weak quads and glutes. This imbalance leads to injury. Cross training can target your complimentary muscle groups and prevent disaster before it strikes. Fortunately, running isn’t the only way to stay fit. Try nordic skiing, snowshoeing, biking, kayaking, swimming, hiking, or walking to increase strength and ward off injury.
Jason is a competitive marathon runner and RRCA distance running coach. He's the senior editor at SaltmarshRunning.com, and writes for several online health and fitness publications. When he's not running on the roads and trails, Jason can be found enjoying life with his family and friends on the New Hampshire seacoast.
Main Photo Credit, Second Photo Credit & Third Photo Credit: lzf/shutterstock.com