Keep your runner’s high going with these injury prevention tips

Keep your runner’s high going with these injury prevention tips

If you are an avid runner and have suffered from an injury in the middle of running season, you know firsthand how inconvenient and challenging it can be to choose to run through the pain or take time off.

But disregarding your pain could cause more harm than good. Instead, try focusing on healing and preventing further running injuries with these tips:

1. Stop when you feel pain

Continuing to run while in pain can make your injuries worse. Sometimes even walking for a short time will help your tissues calm down and allow you to continue to run later. If the pain is too much when you resume, your body is telling you it needs to rest.

Ending a run early does not mean you have failed; it just means your body needs a break. Sometimes taking a break can help you heal faster and help you resume running quicker.

2. Ice is your best friend

Don’t discount the ability of ice to reduce inflammation and help decrease your pain.  Icing the injured area for 10-15 minutes can make a big difference in how your body feels the next day. Still put ice on the impacted limb even if the pain has subsided by the time you get home from a run. If you use a damp washcloth between your skin and the ice, it will help the ice take effect quicker.

3. Use a foam roll or massage gun

Your tissues respond to the demands you place on them and, when we ask the body to do more, your tissues tighten up and create muscle restrictions/knots. This can lead to pain or inappropriate activation of the muscles, which can make running more difficult.

A foam roll or massage gun can be used in many muscles all over the body, including the IT (iliotibial) band, calf, hamstring, hip and low back muscles. The goal is to use pressure to help break up the tissue restrictions, so move slowly and allow the pressure to build up over each area.

4. Modify your scheduled runs

Mixing up your runs can be the key to relief. A few modifications include:

  • Decreasing the number of miles you are running by at least 2-4 miles per day – after all, a few miles is better than none.
  • Splitting a long run into two shorter runs. This can prevent your tissues from getting overworked too quickly and provide time for the tissues to rest between runs.
  • Rearranging the days you are performing your runs. Try to create less days of running back-to-back and add one or two days of rest.
  • Changing the surface you run on. If you typically run on concrete sidewalks, consider a change to asphalt or a grass trail. These surfaces are more forgiving than concrete and can help to dissipate the forces of running. Asphalt and grass can also cause other muscle groups to work harder, so don’t be surprised if other muscles get sore!

5. Consider going to physical therapy

At the end of the day, your physical therapist wants to keep you running. That’s why they will help you become a more efficient runner. Your therapist will work with you to determine the best training program for your body and evaluate your running style. They can also recommend and instruct how to perform strengthening activities to improve muscle groups you may be ignoring. They can also pinpoint activities that can improve activation of muscles that are not working in the proper manner. This type of individualized instruction can ensure you are getting stronger and healthier without causing damage to other areas.

Most importantly, always listen to your body so you can continue to run for many years to come.

Katie Marcouiller is a physical therapist at Aurora Health Care.

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Katie Marcouiller