I want to start a running program, what are some ways to prevent injuries?
With the warm weather right around the corner many people start thinking about getting in shape and setting new running goals, whether it is a 5k, half marathon or even a marathon. Now is the time to prepare so you can meet your goals without an injury throwing you off track.
Proper shoes are incredibly important in preventing injuries. Knowing what your foot looks like and how you run are two things that can help when selecting a shoe. Shoes are roughly divided into three groups: motion control, high mileage, and neutral shoes. The majority of people use neutral shoes, but those with flat feet usually fit into a motion control shoe and those with high arches should choose a high mileage shoe with more cushion. I highly recommend to those who run on a regular basis to be evaluated on a treadmill by someone that is familiar with evaluating runners and can fit you with a proper shoe.
Stretching is also critical to injury prevention when you start a running program. Dynamic stretching prior to running, which is stretching muscles while moving joints can be among the best way to keep you injury free. These include common stretches like butt kicks and high knees, among others. Stay away from the old static stretches like bending over and touching your toes, because this type of stretching can actually increase your risk for injury. Yoga is another great option for runners, because it combines stretching along with balance training, both are important to injury prevention. Also, be sure to add in rest days to your program.
Other things to address at the beginning of a season are your goals. If your goal is a 5k and you've never done one before, your training regimen is going to be different from someone who has done multiple marathons. In these situations I usually recommend a scheduled training program. There are several available online from beginner to advanced programs, this includes the 'couch to 5K' program for the runner who is planning their first 5k or has not run in a long time.
What are some common injuries associated with running?
Overuse injuries are by far the most common due to the nature of the sport. About 50% are knee related and most often come from not running the right way. This is caused by tight muscles, or core muscle weakness, or because of the way you are running, such as running more on your heels. Some of these can be prevented, but when they do occur a little rest, ice, and anti-inflammatories are all you need. However, if you are not back to running after one to two weeks it is probably time to be evaluated by a Sports Medicine physician to see if there is something structurally damaged that needs to be treated.