Injury Prevention in Distance Running

February 4, 2012

As the spring is coming around the corner, track and field is getting ready to start at the high school level. In addition to that marathons, half-marathons, 5Ks and other races also will begin to show up on the schedule. That means there are thousands if not millions of individuals beginning to run. Probably many have continued to train throughout the winter months in order to maintain their cardiovascular fitness and for the racers gain a potential advantage. It also means that this time of year also a prime time for injuries to pop up and most of them are completely preventable.

Proper footwear is a good first step for the prevention of injuries. The footwear should be properly fitted for your feet instead of just buying shoes off the internet. Seek the help of a physical therapist or find a local running store. Many of them have salespeople who specialize in fitting running shoes. They can tell you the ins and outs of purchasing and maintaining your running shoes!

Your shoes should be replaced periodically. Each person is likely to have different life spans for their running shoes, but I encourage you to figure that out because worn out shoes can quickly lead to injury!

Now let’s get into the nitty gritty of the prevention of injury…

I think probably the biggest thing I see with my track and cross country athletes is they have the mentality of “more is better.” I had one of my kids in the clinic on Thursday and he said he’s trying to run 5-7 miles a day 6 days a week. This is beyond his need as a track runner because in high school track the longest distance he will need is 2 miles. I think running more than 2 miles is okay, but he is likely overtraining if he does so numerous times each week. Your specific distance may warrant additional distances, but you should consider what distance your goal is and not be trying to run double or triple that distance!

Proper recovery is important for runners. If you are just getting started, then you want to probably alternate days until you are able to build up both cardiovascular fitness and your body is able to adjust to withstand the forces that running sends throughout the body. Running is considered a “single leg” activity because at any point in the running movement, you have only one foot on the ground. For this reason, proper recovery must be undertaken to keep you from being forced to the sidelines.

With those things in mind, here are some keys that I feel are important for any runner. I recently shared this same exact information with my track coach for him to utilize with our distance runners.

–Ice massage EVERY NIGHT

–Using The Stick and the foam roll 2-3x a week

–Stretching both the calf and the Tibialis Anterior muscles daily

–Ice bath at least up to the knees 1-2x a week

–Being truthful with yourself. If you feel like you need to ride the bike or maybe go for a swim, then do it!

Here are also the thoughts I shared with our coach with regards to when I believe an injury can be handled by the athlete and coach and when they need to seek medical attention.

If a kid complains of pain one day after running biggest thing is ice and stretch. If they don’t complain again then it’s not something I’m concerned about. Unless it’s something traumatic (ankle sprain, muscle strains, etc) single occurrences aren’t something that I feel like I need to take care of because I think you can definitely handle that through adjustments of workouts, etc. Lingering pain (3-4 days) is something I want brought to my attention.

So pull on the performance material, lace up the shoes, and get out there!


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