Running places a lot more stress on the lower limbs than they may be used to and that in turn can lead to running related injuries but in most cases these injuries can be avoided. In the beginning your fitness level will improve quite quickly as it doesn’t take long for your cardiovascular system (heart & lungs) to start showing a positive response to exercise but structurally the improvements may take a little bit longer as it takes your muscles, bones and connective tissue more time to show the same positive response. A manageable volume of training followed by rest and proper nutrition is how you improve so it’s important to be patient and don’t try get too far ahead of yourself. This is why the majority of training plans start with such an easy effort.
There is gain without pain and with these running related injuries prevention is better than cure and it’s a lot less frustrating. Running injuries don’t just happen but instead they build up over a period of time and when you start to feel that niggling pain the chances are it has gotten hold. There’s a big difference between discomfort and actual pain and the difference should be obvious as more than likely it’ll be localised and possibly one sided and if you’re a beginner then you shouldn’t even be working to the point of discomfort. If you’re unlucky enough to get caught out but sensible enough about your recovery and repair then you should be back to your routine quite quickly as most running injuries are short term unless of course you choose to ignore the pain and continue on.
If in doubt then I suggest you don’t test your breaking point by trying to see how far you can go as this will eventually catch you out and the smart way is to slowly but steadily increase your training distance / volume or intensity.
Tips to help with injury prevention
- Warm up and Cool down.
- Build up your distance / intensity slowly.
- Wear the appropriate footwear.
- Include Rest Days.
- Vary your running surfaces to prevent overuse of same muscle groups.
- Include some light stretching after exercising.
- Listen to your body and don’t ignore pain.
- Pay attention to your surroundings as it’s very easy to twist an ankle in a pothole or broken pavement.
- Pay attention to injury.
A regular sports massage can be your best defence against running related injuries and I tend to think of it like having my car serviced. I don’t wait until the car breaks down before booking it in for a service and this lessens the chance of not having the use of my car due to an unexpected breakdown.
Worth mentioning again that the evenings are starting to get darker and regardless of who has the right of way it’s your responsibility to stay seen. Dress to live the part not just look the part and avoid badly lit areas.
It’s advisable to consult with your doctor before starting on any new exercise regime if starting from a base of zero fitness and years of inactivity or returning from illness or injury.
John O’Regan is the official running coach for Run in the Dark.
John O’Regan has ran over 50 marathons and ultra marathons on seven continents / 20 countries and represented Ireland on 10 occasions at ultra marathon distance. Follow him on Twitter at @johnoregan777