Running has been surging in popularity in recent years. However, because running involves repetitive movements with ground impacts, injuries are common. Here are some basic considerations to keep in mind to prevent running injuries.
No matter the body part (muscle, tendon, etc.), pain is a warning signal perceived and interpreted by the brain. When an injury occurs, receptors in the tissue send an electrical signal through the nerves to the brain. When pain lasts for several weeks, this electrical signal travels regularly, making your nervous system hypersensitive and perhaps even causing localized inflammation.
Conclusion: When pain persists, running should be slowed down or stopped temporarily because tissues are in distress. A gait analysis may be helpful to determine what’s causing the irritation.
Before a run, it’s advisable to warm up. This allows you to wake up your muscles, lubricate your joints, increase your heart rate and body temperature, and prepare your body for outside stimulation (ground impact and unstable surfaces). Light progressive jogging, ballistic stretching (unsupported) and ABCD drills are recommended.
Static stretching, i.e. stretching held for several seconds, should be avoided before running. It has not been shown to reduce the risk of injury or soreness. Some studies say that static stretching before running creates micro-tears in the muscle which can predispose you to more serious injuries. Static stretching should be done cold, ideally on non-training days. The introduction of regular stretching sessions aids overall recovery.
Another major principle is quantity. Don’t overdo it (in order to avoid injury), but do it enough to stimulate the cardiovascular system, muscles, tendons and bone tissue to adapt and strengthen everything. We advise running 4 to 6 days a week, and don’t increase your running volume by more than 10% each week. It’s also important to work on one element at a time: distance, speed, hills, etc. Pain is always a warning signal which could be telling us to slow down or even scale back on our training temporarily. But be aware that aches and pains often appear 24 to 48 hours after running and are considered normal.
Running uses many muscles, and it’s important to do specific exercises for strength and endurance. Strength training improves performance and biomechanics in addition to reducing fatigue, thereby preventing injuries. The main muscle groups to focus on are the core, the muscles in the foot, the calves, thighs (quadriceps and hamstrings) and glutes. Balance (proprioception) should also be taken into consideration to promote the ability to adapt to uneven surfaces, especially when running on trails or cross-country.
If an injury occurs in spite of these recommendations, do not hesitate to consult with one of our physical therapists.