9 Tips on How to Avoid Injuries on Long Distance Runs
You know what they say: “Feel the burn!” and “Mind over matter!” There’s nothing like pushing on hard through the pain to reach the near-holy runner’s high. You feel like you can run forever and you rack up the miles with no trouble. Anyone can get in shape, but true athletes know the power of the mind over the body. With the right mindset and perseverance, you can really achieve anything as a runner. At the same time, there’s nothing worse than reaching your full potential only to get injured and stuck on the couch. With the right bit of knowledge, you can avoid this common mistake. Here are 9 foolproof tips for how to avoid injuries on long distance runs.
- Invest in the right running shoes.
This doesn’t mean spending an exorbitant amount on the most expensive shoes on the market. Plenty of high-quality running shoes are also highly affordable. What it means is considering what you need as a runner. New runners tend to benefit from maximalist running shoes that are high on support, comfort, and protection. Veteran runners sometimes prefer to switch over to more minimalist shoes. There are so many factors to consider like arch support, shock-absorption, breathability, underfoot protection, and responsiveness. If you’re experiencing foot pain, consult with a doctor to determine where you need more support.
- Lightly stretch and start out with a walking warm-up.
Stretching. It’s something that for whatever reason everyone seems to disagree on. How much should you stretch before and after a run? And do you really even need to? The safest advice is to do a few light stretches to wake your body up before you get going. Instead of starting with an all-out sprint or even jogging, take a few minutes – or five to ten minutes – to warm up your body with a walk. The walking is going to clear out lactic acid build-up and prevent muscle soreness later on. If you’re really new to the running game, you’ll benefit from beginning with walk-jog, walk-run intervals to get you into longer runs as well.
- Stay flexible.
Stretch before your run and stretch afterwards, too. Hit up dynamic stretches like high knees, skipping, lunges, and arm-circles. At the same time, when you’re doing static stretches, stand still for at least 30 seconds and avoid hopping.
- Slowly work running into your routine.
If you’ve been cycling, walking, or using the elliptical, don’t immediately switch over to running full-time. Ease running into your routine one day a week until you’re satisfied with the amount of running you’re getting in.
Great runners aren’t just runners. they’re athletes. This means cross-training. Cross-training allows you to continue working out but without over-stressing your muscles from running and heavy impact. Your joints, muscles, and connective tissues are working super hard to absorb shock as you run. Because of this, think biking, walking, the elliptical, and numerous other exercises that don’t involve pounding the pavement. Swimming is another great break from running which treats the body well and ups your aerobic ability.
- Make incremental changes.
As tempting as it is to make gains as quickly as possible, racking on the miles with daily runs, you’re much better off taking your time. Don’t be impatient. Increase your running time by 5 to 10 percent per week or even month. Don’t feel like you have to run every day. Your body craves variety, and it’s good to give certain muscles a break. If you do want a daily running routine, at the very least, alternate between hard and easy days.
- Listen to your body.
Yeah, it’s corny and you’ve definitely heard it more than once from people like your mom and grandmother. But they, and your doctor, have a point. If you hear a pop or feel something abnormal like hurting shins, stop immediately. There’s no point in continuing to run if you’ve got a limp when you walk.
- Work on building up your strength.
Weightlifting is going to help you no matter what type of athlete you are. Too often runners become addicted to running and forget that their bodies need more than that. Training your muscles – all of them – is going to reduce your risk of developing injuries. It’s also going to allow you to push on for much longer.
- Take stock in RICE.
It’s a classic: rest, ice, compression, and elevation is the cure-all that athletes and trainers love. RICE reduces pain and swelling, protects damaged tissue, and speeds up the healing process. Icing is easy, and it feels really good. But don’t forget about the “R.” As much as you love working out, you have to remember to rest. If you neglect resting periods for minor injuries, you’ll get a much longer break from working out thanks to more serious injuries that will develop.