One of the most disappointing things for a runner or athlete (weekend of professional) is getting bitten by the injury bug. The reason we are exercising is to get healthier, so when injuries happen it bums us out. Not every injury is foreseeable, but many can be prevented with some proper training techniques.

You may not be able to prevent that sprained ankle while trail running, but here are some ways to prevent common running (and sport-related) injuries.

Don’t Overtrain

Overtraining is probably the most common reason for running injuries. Running causes the body to break down, taxing muscles, ligaments and joints. Without proper rest and time to re-build, your chances of getting injured increases. Remember the following to help prevent overtraining.

  • Schedule rest days during your training week and REST! Rest days should include no exercising (or at least leg workouts) and days without running. This is especially important for beginners and runners working on speed and increased distances.

  • Don’t increase your running mileage too quickly. Ideally, a weekly increase should be no more than 10% above your previous week’s long run. Yes, this can be tough – I for one have caught myself pushing beyond my scheduled running mileage. Doing it once may be OK, but don’t make it a habit.

Don’t Forget to Stretch

As runners we often schedule our running time based on how fast and how far we need to run. If I can do 6 miles in 60 minutes, then I schedule my workout for an hour, right? WRONG! Let’s not forget to add in our pre-run and post-run stretching!

Stretching before you run will warm up your muscles, helping to prevent injuries (I always think of what happens when you try to pull a cold rubber band – SNAP!). A short dynamic warm up will help prepare your body for your upcoming run.

Post-run stretching will help prevent muscle tightness and soreness hours after your run. Again, doing a short five-minute static post run stretching routine will help you wind down and help you recover better from your run.

Build Your Muscles

Being so focused on running or weight loss goals, we tend to neglect the importance of strength training. Strength training (not bodybuilding) has shown to vastly improve overall conditioning, prevent injuries and help people to lose weight (fat – the bad weight). It has also shown to make athletes faster, quicker and better in their chosen sports.

Start to build strength training into your workout week. Two days a week is a great start. Focus on overall body workouts using weights that aren’t too heavy for you not to complete a routine. Circuit strength training is a great way to add strength training to your routine as it helps to focus on both strength and cardio in a single session.

The internet is jam packed with several “use at home” programs and most fitness clubs have personal training sessions that focus on circuit training programs. Just use a search engine with the keyword, “circuit strength training” and you will have pages of results.

(I would be remiss without mentioning Fitness Together in North Attleboro, MA where I have trained and recommend to anyone in this area looking for personal training)

Remember, the goal is to keep running so you can continue on your journey toward better health, personal bests and the overall enjoyment of running. Taking care of your body with proper rest, preparation and strength will most certainly prevent injuries and help you stay in the game!

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