Runners and injuries are frequent bedfellows. If you run long enough or often enough, you will almost inevitably run your way into a problem. Some, of course, are unavoidable, but a large majority are self inflicted – the result of poor judgement, overenthusiasm or simple stupidity. So arm yourself in advance: here are the 10 most common routes to injury – and, more importantly, how to avoid them.
1. Wearing new shoes on race day
This is tempting, because new running shoes have a slipper-like feel from the first fitting. That might remain the case for a short while, but resist it. A plethora of foot and lower-limb problems are but a few miles away.
Wear them in first.
2. Wearing old shoes
Another big temptation, mainly because new running shoes are so expensive, old ones are so comfortable and it’s easy to judge wear by the state of the outsole and the upper rather than (correctly) by the compression of the midsole. Joint or shin soreness is the most obvious result and, in fact, should be taken as a sign that your shoes need replacing.
Log the miles you’ve run in each pair of shoes, and change them at least every
500-600 miles. It’s cheaper than the medical alternative.
3. Wearing the wrong shoes
This could either be a model unsuited to your gait and foot, or a shoe inappropriate to the type of running you’re doing. Either way, you have a problem.
If you don’t know what you’re doing, shop at a specialist running retailer. Don’t try anything stupid, like doing a fell race in a road shoe.
4. Ignoring Pain
Runners accept pain as part of the sport. But not all pain is the same. You have to learn to separate the good pain, associated with the positive progression of your fitness, from the bad pain, which tends to be unfamiliar, infrequent and generally localised in one particular area of the body. It is an early-warning sign of injury, the final severity of which will be determined by how much notice you pay.
Pay attention to unfamiliar pains. Ease off, and seek medical help where necessary.
5. Commencing treatment without diagnosis
Okay, so you have an injury, you know it’s a bad one and you feel you know how to solve it.
So you start treatment. The trouble is that you’re a runner, not a medical expert. You may have
misdiagnosed your problem and started the wrong treatment.
If there’s any chance that you’re wrong, see a professional and don’t DIY.
6. Not drinking enough prior to or during a run
Year after year, we warn people about the danger of dehydration, and year after year they
ignore us. This is less of a problem on big race days, when runners are more meticulous in their
preparations, than it is in training. Dehydration affects your health and performance whenever you run.
Drink fluid little and often throughout the day, every day.
7. Not stretching enough
Again, most runners know they should stretch, but they don’t. What’s more, many of them don’t warm up or cool down either. The result is frequent muscle pulls, strains and post-run soreness.
Warm up with a few mobilising exercises or a gentle jog before your run; cool down in the same way, followed by stretching.
8. Increasing mileage too quickly
Many runners insist that patience is more of an impediment than a virtue. When you are building up to a longer race or coming back from injury, the temptation is to do it too rapidly.
Increase your mileage by no more than 10 per cent per week.
9. Not allowing yourself enough recovery time
Training too hard, too often, is another common error made by people looking for rapid progression. You can do it by following one hard session with another, not taking rest days or not resting
effectively when you’re not running. If you’re constantly tired, you open yourself up to illness and
infection, and your performance and motivation may suffer.
Work out a balanced programme with hard days and easy days, and rest
completely at least one day a week.
10. An ignorance of cross-training
The repetitive, unidirectional nature of running puts a huge strain on certain parts of your body. The more you run, the more your chance of becoming injured. But you can maintain your fitness while reducing your injury risk by simply integrating other sports and activities into a total fitness programme.
Being a runner doesn’t mean you have to be blind to other sports. Open your eyes.