Contributor: Laura Goldberg, MD
Running is one of the fastest growing sports in the nation with more than 40 million people taking to the open road. Unfortunately, 60 to 65 percent of runners will be injured in a given year. Risk factors for injury include fewer than three years’ experience and running more than 40 miles per week.
Before getting started, consider these 4 tips to stay off the injured list:
1. Wear the right shoes
Getting a good running shoe for your foot and gait is an important part of injury prevention. Go to a sporting good or running shoe store and work with a shoe expert to find the right pair for your foot.
Take your old shoes to the store so the experts there can help find the appropriate running shoe for you. If you wear orthotics or shoe inserts, you should try the shoes on with the insert. Shoes should be replaced every four to six months depending on how much you run.
2. Plan and record your accomplishments and feelings
Whether you are running just to get in shape or have a goal of doing a 5k or local race, keep track of how many miles you are going and how you feel. A log recording your time or miles and how you feel during and after each run is very useful in identifying problems and motivating you to get better. When you first start, avoid running on consecutive days. The days of rest from running allow your body to recover.
Be careful about increasing your running mileage too quickly. Many injuries come from a sudden increase in miles or intensity such as with hill runs or going faster.
3. Cross-train your muscles in other ways
Cross-train with weights or low-impact activities to build strength in your running muscles. If you are hoping to run a 5k, you should build to a base of 15 miles per week for most weeks. There are many training groups and online programs to assist you with determining how much to run and when.
4. Understand aches and pains
If you have aches and pains at first, do not give up. Often just a subtle weakness or a slight issue with your posture can alter your gait and cause nagging and recurrent pains. Fifty percent of running injuries will happen in an area where there has been a prior injury.
Running is a rewarding sport, but it takes time to get your body to feel like you are a runner.
If despite good training habits, you have a recurrent injury, you may consider seeing a running specialist to evaluate your injury and analyze your running gait.
Laura Goldberg, MD, is a primary care sports medicine physician who specializes in runners. To make an appointment with Dr. Goldberg or any of our other primary care sports medicine physicians, please call 877.440.TEAM.