How to Prevent Running Injuries


As the winter season winds down, and spring approaches, many of you will be eager to get back into running. Running injures are a common problem that we often see in the clinic around this time of year. Usually, these injuries are related to people accelerating too fast into running. Whether it's a result of running too hard, too far, or too frequently, all this can lead to injury.


Running injuries can vary from person to person and can include:

  • knee pain: patellofemoral pain syndrome (aka: “runner’s knee”)

  • shin splints

  • compartment syndrome

  • plantar fasciitis

  • and more!

Below are some tips to help you prevent the development of a running injury, and can help keep you active and reach your goals!


Exercises


A strength training program is essential in helping prevent the onset of an overuse injury. Some key areas to focus on, are to strengthen your arches/postural shin muscles, glute maxiumus, medius and minimius muscles, hamstrings (eccentrically) and quadricep muscles. Strengthening your glute muscles can help to prevent increased stress/load onto your knees.


Additionally, working on an exercise that improves contact/activation of the big toe is key to distributing force throughout the body efficiently. If the big toe is not activating appropriately, it can lead to improper distribution of forces, resulting in an over-use injury.


Below are some examples of exercises that can help to strengthen the above-mentioned muscles. As with all exercises, ensure that you only move within pain free motion


Quadricep Activation via terminal knee extension with Theraband:


For this exercise: attach one end of the band around a pole or secured to a door, and the other end of the band around your thigh, just above your knee. Next, ensure that the band is taut, and extend your knee and hold for about 5 seconds. Repeat this 8-10 times, for 3 sets.


(Image retrieved from: https://www.performancehealthacademy.com/thera-band-terminal-knee-extension-tke.html)




Hamstring activation via "Good Mornings":


For this exercise: Start with your feet shoulder-width apart and hands behind your head (or you can place them around your chest). Next, push your butt behind you, hinging at the hips, keeping your chest up and back straight.

Your knees should be slightly bent and your weight should be fully on your heels.


Keep your spine extended and your chest held up high, and pull yourself quickly back up, using your glutes and hamstrings. Repeat this exercise for 10-12 repetitions, 3 sets.


Contract your glutes all the way up to the top of the movement.


(Image retrieved from: https://www.openfit.com/good-morning-exercise)


For more excercises, check out our Royal City Physio Instagram and look for my recent videos.


Footwear


Ideally, it is recommended that you change your footwear/runners after every 6 months (if being used regularly). When deciding on which type of shoe to purchase, avoid minimalist footwear: i.e., shoes that do not have good support. Every individual has unique arches/foot anatomy, thus each individual needs to have a shoe that is both comfortable and supportive for them.


Running Schedule and Distance/Terrain

When starting to run for the first time, it's best to start with a shorter distance. This will vary based on each person’s fitness level. Often times, people will ramp up the intensity and distance too quickly. Ideally it is best to start with a structured running schedule. A plan involving a gradual progression of distance/intensity can help to reduce the risk of developing an injury.


An example of gradual progression can be interval training. For example, start off with a walk/jog routine of 1km walking followed by 1km jogging, finished with 1km walking.


When developing a running schedule, it's best to plan a rest day (from running) the day after runs. The rest days from running will provide you an opportunity to work on the above-mentioned exercises! Furthermore, structure the schedule such that you are gradually increasing the distance as the week progresses.


An example of a walk/jog program may be as follows:

  • Monday: 3km

  • Wednesday: 4km

  • Saturday: 5km

You can gradually progress to a jogging/running interval program with the end goal of working on a continuous run.


Another key thing to consider is the type of terrain you are jogging/running on. Repetitive running on a hard surface (such as concrete/asphalt) and hills can potentially lead to injury. Ideally, it's best to have a mixture of running on a flat/soft surface, such as a track/oval, combined with running on a trail or a sidewalk.


Warm-Up


Once you're ready to begin with your runs, performing an active warm-up is key to help prepare your body. My fellow colleague Mikaela wrote a fantastic blog, titled: “How to Get Back to Running on the Right Foot.” In this blog, she goes through a variety of exercises to help get you warmed-up and ready for running.


As always, each individual will vary in their baseline strength and fitness levels. Thus, a tailored, individualized program is recommended. This will help ensure that each person gets the most out of their training program and ultimately prevent injury!


Daniel Folino graduated with his Master’s of Physical Therapy from the University of British Columbia. Prior to completing his Master’s degree, he graduated with a Bachelor of Kinesiology at the University of British Columbia. He is a member of the Physiotherapy Association of B.C. and the Canadian Physiotherapy Association. Book with Dan today.