Running is a wonderful way to enjoy the great outdoors while getting your daily dose of exercise. With numerous organized races, added daylight hours, and temperatures that make getting vitamin D while on the move even more enjoyable, it’s no wonder more people hit the pavement during the summer. As your mileage accumulates, follow these tips to stay injury free. Running is a great way to strengthen your heart and lungs, but not as forgiving on your joints.
Cross-Train for Cardio
If running is your favorite form of cardio, you run the risk of overdoing it. Try to stick to 2-3 days per week of running. Then, if you’re looking for additional cardio, opt for a less impactful workout such as walking, hiking, biking, swimming or rowing.
Say YES to Yoga
Yoga, or any flexibility training you’ll actually do regularly, helps prevent injuries. Opening up your hip flexors, stretching your hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes, hips, and calves are very important and should be done as often as you can. Of course, there are additional areas of concern as well, such as the upper back and shoulders (your postural muscles). Try this post-run yoga sequence if you need a bit of inspiration. Deep stretching should be done after your running workouts and you can also focus on flexibility during your active recovery days.
Whether your legs get sore or not from running, you still need to add strength training to your regimen. Stronger legs are less likely to become injured. The same muscles we discussed stretching above should also be strengthened. Of course, working all major muscle groups is important and functional exercises will provide the best return on your investment.
Just Roll With It
Foam rolling is a newer form of preventative maintenance that works out some of the knots that often result from running, and helps keep your muscles in tip-top shape. You use your bodyweight to apply direct pressure to trigger points (a.k.a. “knots”). Your legs, hips, and glutes will appreciate a little bit of dedicated foam rolling time. Try it at night while you unwind in front of the TV!
Walk Before You Run
Walking is the best way to warm up for a run. Ditch the static stretching you see everyone else doing (i.e. grabbing your foot and pulling it up toward your backside or putting your foot up on the curb and leaning forward). Athletes opt for “rehearsal” type movements to better prepare the body for upcoming activity. Start with a brisk walk and then begin to jog at a slower pace than you would normally. This type of warm-up will help your muscles better acclimate to the impact of your run and lessen the likelihood of injury.
Beyond the tips listed, be sure to increase your mileage wisely. In other words, not too much too soon! Pay attention to your running surfaces. Opt for softer surfaces when you can (get off the concrete!) and take a break from time to time. A good massage every so often also does the body good—as do days off!