2023 Race Day

DEC 2, 2023

Stay Injury-Free: Essential Tips for Preventing Running Injuries

running injuries

Race Day is less than two months away, so it’s time to start training! The last thing you can afford while training is getting an injury that would keep you from running for JingleJam10K

Accidents happen all the time, and to err is human, but there are things you can do to prevent a running injury from happening to you. Before heading straight into tips and safety guidelines for all runners, it’s good to know some common injuries related to running.

Understanding Running Injuries

Though many factors can lead to a myriad of running or race-related injuries, the following are some of the most common to runners from all circles:

Plantar Fasciitis: Pain at the bottom of the foot from the heel to the arch that can feel worse after a prolonged rest period. Some causes include feet with too high or low an arch, worn down or improper running shoes, and tightness in the calves. Training errors like speeding up, increasing intensity, or switching from treadmill to outdoor running too quickly can also result in plantar fasciitis.

Iliotibial (IT) Band Syndrome: Pain on the outside knee during any movement, sometimes flaring up along the outer part of the hip or leg. IT Syndrome can occur when a runner is walking downhill. The usual cause for this pain is weak gluteal muscles, and women are the most affected group.

Achilles Tendonitis: Pain usually concentrated in the heel that flares up with pressure or impact against any surface, upward steps or slopes, or a sudden change of direction. It is one of the most common sports-related injuries caused by increased workout intensity, poor or lack of prep, flat feet, or practicing in colder environments.

Runner’s Knee: A gradually building pain located beneath or around the kneecap and is aggravated by bending of the knee or accompanied by stiffness after sitting for a while. Weakened thigh muscles or flat feet are some of the causes of this type of injury, though prolonged pressure on the knees through excessive training is also a key contributor.

Shin Splints: Pain that flares up in the shin during running. It starts after running and then progresses to chronic pain that requires medical attention. The constant pressure on your shins from either competitive running or jumping with no downtime are causes. Runners, especially those with flat feet or high arches, are prone to shin splints.

Stress Fractures: Persistent pain is usually found in the shin but can also appear in the foot, thigh, hip, or pelvic areas. Untreated shin splints may develop into stress fractures, and the pain tends to be far more severe and needs constant management. The most affected are people who play sports that require a lot of lower body movement and pressure, such as runners, gymnasts, and basketball players.

When injuries are not given medical attention or are left untreated, they can snowball into more severe conditions. Risking paralysis or the inability to walk due to damage to the feet, ankles, legs, and knees is not worth trying to painfully walk off an injury. This will impact your ability to run in any race and affect your quality of life for years to come.

Pre-Race Prep: Tips to Prevent Running Injuries

Prevention is better than cure,” goes a saying among many medical workers. To make and take steps to keep something from happening rather than dealing with the mess afterward is absolutely golden advice.

Choosing the right running shoes

A lot of running injuries are the result of improper footwear.

Shoes are the only defense runners have against running injuries, and something as simple as the fit, shoe type, and even insole will make a huge difference.

For example, a running shoe worn by people with a normal arch will likely cause problems for a person with a fallen arch. A flat-footed person may benefit from a shoe with a reinforced heel and supportive sole.

If possible, visit an orthopedic doctor for more help finding the right shoe for your foot.

Warm-up and stretching routines

Limbering up is essential to pre-race preparation. Performing warm-up exercises and having a stretch routine will be beneficial once it’s ready, set, and go.

Dynamic warm-ups like leg swings, high knees, butt kicks, and arm circles are geared to increase your heart rate, blood flow, and muscle temp for your run.

Stretching afterward will also increase your range of motion and flexibility. 20 to 30-second stretches focused on the quads, hamstrings, calf muscles, and hips can go a long way in reducing the chance of injury.

Gradual training progression

Never overexert yourself. Pushing yourself too hard and too soon will lead to injuries that may hinder participation in an upcoming race or sideline you from the sport for a hot minute.

Setting realistic goals for yourself and knowing your limits will get you farther than cramming three months of training into one week.

Remember to listen to your body. Signs of fatigue, aches, pain, or discomfort after training mean you need some downtime before starting up again. Why rush through a recovery? This resting period is meant to let your body heal from its exertion.

Safety Measures to Take During the Race

  1. Maintain an upright posture while running. Keep your head up, shoulders relaxed, and back straight. Engage your core to stabilize your torso. Avoid excessive leaning forward or backward.
  2. Aim for a comfortable stride length and cadence. Overstriding can lead to injuries, so take shorter, quicker steps. A cadence of around 170-180 steps per minute is ideal for most runners.
  3. Dehydration can impair your performance and increase the risk of cramps and heat-related issues. Take sips of water at aid stations along the course. Depending on the weather, aim for 4-8 ounces of fluid every 20-30 minutes.
  4. Consume a balanced mix of carbohydrates, electrolytes, and fluids during the race. Energy gels, chews, or sports drinks can provide quick energy. Practice your fueling strategy during training to avoid digestive issues on race day.
  5. Pay attention to your body’s signals. If you experience sharp pain, extreme fatigue, dizziness, or disorientation, these are red flags. Slowing down or stopping is a smart choice to prevent further injury.
  6. If you’re unable to continue due to an injury or illness, don’t push through the pain. Seek assistance from race officials or medical personnel. Most races have designated medical stations along the course.

Post-Race Recovery

  1. Slow your pace to a light jog for about five minutes.
  2. Perform gentle stretching and hold each for 20 seconds to relax your muscles.
  3. Find a spot to sit or lie down after running to allow your heart rate to go back to normal.
  4. Aim for a full night’s rest in the days post-race. Trust me, your body will appreciate the extra recovery time.
  5. Eat a meal half or a full hour after your run that includes carbs, proteins, and healthy fats.
  6. Hydrate yourself by drinking water or a beverage with electrolytes.

Conclusion

Staying injury-free is crucial for you because when you are well and you’re feeling well, you’ll do well. Keeping yourself from getting injured in a race also ensures other runners won’t run into you and injure themselves in the process. You don’t need to be researching article after book after webpage for months on end; just some information to help yourself avoid running injuries.

Jingle Jam 10K is a race with a cause, raising funding and support for SafeHomes Domestic Violence Center, an organization that helps victims of domestic abuse access resources, educates their families and social networks, and ultimately advocates for them and works to reduce domestic violence in the community.

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