Injury prevention tips for runners

Injury prevention tips for runners

Author: Chris Macdonald

Read Time:   |  December 10, 2014

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When training for an event during the winter season, injury prevention is key to ensuring you roll into the New Year at the top of your game. The more you run the more pressure and strain you put on your body and therefore the more likely you are to pick up an injury. Personal trainer and fitness expert, Lucy Wyndham has teamed up with with the pain relief pros over at Therapearl to give her top tips for preventing common running injuries. Follow these tips for an injury-free winter season.

Know your limits

For regular runner’s being completely injury free all the time is almost impossible! This is why it is so important to know your limits. Runners have a different threshold for the amount of running their body can take and once you exceed it, you get injured. The biggest mistake people make here is doing too much, too soon, too fast. When building your running activity your body needs time to adapt and muscles time to heal and recover before they can take on a new run. If you rush the process you will fail. I would recommend building your weekly runs by 10% each week to ensure safe and injury free progression.

Listen to your body

Listening to your body is the most important thing when trying to prevent a running injury. As soon as you feel an injury it’s a sign of your body telling you something is wrong. Running through the pain is never advisable – you need to assess the injury and take appropriate action and get to the root of what’s causing it before it gets worse.

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Warm up and warm down

Every run, no matter how long or short, should start with a warm up and end with a cool down.

A successful warm up will dilate your blood vessels which ensures that your muscles are sufficiently supplied with oxygen and will also raise the temperature of the muscles for optimal suppleness and effectiveness. The warm up should also slowly raise your heart rate which will minimize the stress on your heart when you start running.

A cool down after a run is just as important as a warm up. Done in the right way a cool down keeps the blood flowing through the body. Stopping suddenly and not warming down can cause dizziness because your heart rate and blood pressure drop rapidly.

The right trainers

Trainers are the most important part of any runner’s kit and play a major part in preventing injury prevention and causing it in the first place.

I would always recommend that runners invest in a gait assessment when buying new trainers. A gait assessment provides runners with essential information about their running style. This will determine the type of running trainers you require for maximum performance and keeping injury free.

The main point of a gait assessment is to measure the degree of your pronation. Pronation is the natural inwards roll of the foot as the outside part of the heel hits the ground. This roll movement acts as a shock absorber for the leg and body, optimally distributing the force of the impact of the heel hitting the ground.

There are two types of pronation – overpronation is when the feet roll inwards too much and supernation is where the feet don’t roll inwards enough. After you have had a gait assessment you can gauge which type of running shoe you need to counter balance your pronation and help reduce the risk of injury and improving running efficiency.

You should also never do more than 400 miles in a pair of trainers. After this point trainers will lose their cushioning support and the tread will be really worn down. These factors are major parts of how trainers support the body, counter balance pronation and prevent injury so don’t hold back on getting yourself a new pair.

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Response to a running injury

When you pick up a running injury responding to it as quickly as possible is key. Ice therapy is one of the most common recommendations by doctors for injury recovery. Applying ice immediately after an injury occurs will constrict blood flow to the area and slows bleeding and swelling. Ice therapy reduces pain and muscle spasm and decreases the metabolic rate of cells, which limits the risk of cell death after an injury and helps prevent long term damage.

Therapearl sports packs are a fantastic way of applying ICE therapy after a running injury. The doctor-designed packs use innovative Pearl Technology that absorb and deliver cold from the freezer for the doctor recommended 20 minutes of treatment. Constructed of durable, yet pliable, plastic, Therapearl packs conform comfortably to the body when frozen. With a variety of different packs available for different body parts the pearls mould around the injured body part with a velcro strap to keep it in place so you can preserve a wide range of motion. Unlike other remedies like frozen peas or ice packs, Therapearl won’t leak or drip and isn’t rough or jagged so remains soft against the skin.

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In addition to the Ice Therapy the Therapearl packs can also be used for heat therapy by popping the pack into the microwave prior to use.

Heat should be introduced at least 24 hours after an injury occurs once swelling and bleeding has subsided as the heat will stimulate blood flow and could make these factors worse. Once swelling has completely gone the heat therapy will relax your muscles and ease movement. Stimulating blood flow to injured areas will promote healing and speed the recovery of damaged tissues.

Also another little trick with the heated packs is to apply them to weak areas of the body before exercise. This will stimulate blood flow and warm up muscles therefore preventing injury during exercise.

Lucy has also compiled her top tips for preventing common injuries in the gym – perfect if you’re hitting the gym hard this winter.

Chris Macdonald

Editor-at-Large, Women's Running

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