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Woman stretches before a run on a hill

How To Avoid Common Running Injuries

Most runners suffer some type of injury at some point, but with some careful planning, many of these can be minimised or eliminated altogether. Tracy McCarthy, personal trainer, Merrell brand ambassador and keen athlete speaks about how to avoid common injuries when running.

 

Read on to find out more about the most common injuries and how to minimise pain:


How To Avoid Common Running Injuries

Woman stretches before a run on a hill

Tracey McCarthy, Merrell brand ambassador

Running injuries often occur in the legs with pain such as shin splints, tight IT bands, cramps and blisters. Back pain is also common however, particularly in the pelvis area. There are a few simple ways of avoiding these injuries but if you have had repeated/prolonged pain in a certain area make sure you seek medical advice to identify the cause and start treatment.

 

Skin Burns
Caused by skin on skin friction, or by clothing rubbing the skin.

 

Blisters
Rubbing from trainer cause by excessive movement of the foot inside footwear. Also caused by poorly fitted socks or socks that do not wick moisture away effectively.

 

Pulled muscle or other soft tissue damage
Sudden movements without warming up, overexertion or poor technique is enough to cause tissue trauma.

 

Shin Splints
Often occur after long bouts of no exercise when the runner is returning to training or through wearing badly fitting trainers.

 

Knee/Hamstrings/Calf/Foot/Glute Pain
These could be due to overexertion, not stretching or extended periods of running without rest. If you suffer pain every time you run or the pain is intense, seek medical advice.


How To Prevent Injuries

Woman stretches before a run on a hill

Warm Up

The warm up phase of your training is important for a number of reasons:

  • You take your mind from day to day activities and prepare it for the work ahead
  • You slowly build your heart rate up, in a safe way avoiding a sudden shock
  • You start to fill your muscles with much needed, oxygenated blood, ready for extra movement
  • You prepare your energy systems for a change of gear, so that your fuel can be used to power your muscles effectively

Woman stretches before a run on a hill

Stretch, Stretch And Stretch

 

So many injuries could be prevented by some simple stretches. The best time to stretch is after the warm up and at the end of your run when your joints and muscles are lubricated. Try to move through each muscle and perform a stretch that lasts around 10 seconds each. If you are short of time, why not stretch while you are having your recovery drink or during your shower.


Woman stretches before a run on a hill

Pace Yourself

Running too fast, without a warm up is a sure fire way to eventually pick up an injury. Ease your body gently towards faster running to avoid injuries. Patience is important, as a simple thing like starting slowly can avoid an injury that could put you back months, or worse, stop you running altogether. Additionally, if you have had time off from running don’t assume your body will be able to cope with the training you were doing before. Doing too much running commonly leads to injuries, so ensure you have a plan that helps you build mileage and speed slowly.


Woman stretches before a run on a hill

Vary The Terrain

Too much running on tarmac wreaks havoc on knees and ankle joints. If you suffer from pain in these areas try to run on the grass, or better still do some trail running. Mixing up your terrain will help to minimise trauma to muscles, tendons and joints so try to include it in your weekly schedule.


Woman stretches before a run on a hill

Strength Train

Strength training in the form of lunges, squats, deadlifts and core work is very beneficial to runners, not only to maintain muscle but also to strengthen the body and prevent injury. Try to include at least 1 session a week to start increasing your strength and protecting your muscles, bones, joints and other soft tissue.


Woman stretches before a run on a hill

Wear The Right Clothing & Protection

If you are running in the heat, or are prone to heavy sweating, make sure you wear breathable fabric to reduce friction from fabric. If it’s cold or wet then wear gear that will keep you dry and comfortable.

Also consider using Vaseline and/or plasters on sensitive areas such as nipples and around the ankle where the foot touches the trainer.

 

If you have new trainers, try to walk in them for a couple of days before running to soften the fabric. When you do start running in them, wear socks that come up above the ankle line to protect your heels from blisters.

If it is sunny, wear some UV protection. Often when we run, we don’t feel our skin burning due to sweat keeping us cool, but if you don’t protect yourself you risk serious harm from the sun’s rays!


What To Do If You Get Injured While Running

Woman stretches before a run on a hill
  1. Stop. Don’t run through the pain, you risk making the injury worse

  2. Seek help from those around you

  3. Treat soft tissue injuries such as ligament or muscle sprains with RICE – Rest, Icepacks, Compression and Elevation (raising the injured area above the level of your heart).

  4. Do not run again until the injury has completely healed.

  5. Ask your doctor, physiotherapist or other health professional for medical advice before you start running again.
     

Prevention is better than cure, giving some consideration to how you train and how you protect yourself could help you run injury-free for many years to come.


Woman stretches before a run on a hill

Posted by: Tracy McCarthy

 

Tracey McCarthy is a Merrell brand ambassador, a personal trainer and triathlete. She was a member of the Great British team at the World Triathlon Championships in 2013 and in 2014 she represented team GB during the European Triathlon Championships, Kitzbuhel.