Muscle strengthening and stretching can prevent running injuries

Nearly 60 percent of runners will experience injury in a calendar year. Though that number is quite high, simple strategies can help most runners avoid injury. Running injuries are often related to training errors, such as ramping up mileage too quickly. Additionally, a structured strengthening and stretching routine can prevent the typical muscle imbalances that lead to injury from occurring.


Do

Do cross train

A runner will benefit from doing more than just running. Many running injuries relate to overuse, so taking days off from running to bike or swim will reduce the pounding stresses of running on the body. A physical therapist can help with cross training if you are looking for different activities and workouts.

Do focus on weaknesses

A physical therapist can help to identify areas of weakness in a runner so a specific routine can be developed to address these potential areas of breakdown. It is best to consult with a physical therapist that has the experience and knowledge to identify and also get you on a workout routine that will help eliminate your weaknesses. Running isn’t just about your lower body strength.

Do have a leg and core strengthening routine

Most running injuries occur because of muscle imbalance. Running does not strengthen the key stabilizing muscles needed to prevent the most common injuries. Thus, having a routine to strengthen these areas is crucial.

Do take time to recover

It is important to take time off from running to allow the muscles and tissues of the legs to recuperate. Rest days allow the body a break from the stress of running and prepare it for the next day of training. Sleep is a huge part of recovery, so be sure to get adequate rest.

Do seek out an expert

Past injuries often predict future injury. If you are chronically experiencing injury, consider seeking out an expert, such as a physical therapist, to help identify why you are vulnerable and to provide you with a corrective plan.


Don't

Do not try to push through pain

The body gives us warning signals that something is not right. A great example of this is pain. Listen to the body and react to what it is telling you. Pain is usually a sign that an imbalance of strength or flexibility is stressing local tissues. A physical therapist can help you correct these problems. Rest is a good first step, but it usually does not correct the actual problem.

Do not run with a limp

If a runner can't run without a limp they should not be running. Even a slight limp will most likely lead to other areas of the body being overly stressed. This scenario often results in having two painful areas instead of one.

Do not forget about stretching

Running requires the joints of our legs to move through dynamic ranges of motion. Leg muscles often need consistent stretching to be able to lengthen adequately for the sport of running. Stretching is especially important for runners who sit at a desk all day as these postures often tighten the leg muscles.

Do not forget about running form

A physical therapist can analyze your running form to correct inefficiencies that can lead to injury. Subtle changes to posture and form can have a profound impact on reducing the amount of stress placed on the body while running.

Do not try to rush things

It can take months to build up your running tolerance. Overuse injuries usually result from trying to increase mileage or intensity of training to quickly. Slowly progress all aspects of training to avoid the common pitfalls of training errors.


Summary
Jumping cartoon

Preventing injuries while running is all about knowing your limits, adequate stretching, and cross training to help strengthen areas of your body that support you while running, like your core muscles. A physical therapist can be very beneficial to you if you are running either as a sport or just as a workout to build your cardio.


More expert advice about Running

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Robert Gillanders, PT, DPT, OCSSpokesperson for the American Physical Therapy Association

Physical therapist and American Physical Therapy Association member Robert Gillanders, PT, DPT, OCS, practices at Sports + Spinal Physical Therapy in Washington, DC. He is a board-certified orthopedic clinical specialist, a certified ergonomic a...

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