One of the biggest challenges of running is avoiding running injuries. Running injuries are so frequent that people have come to accept them as part of the sport.
An analysis by the British Journal of Sports Medicine showed that different studies documented injury rates ranging from 19% to nearly 80%. The knee was the most common site of injury.
While getting injured is certainly possible when we run a lot, we should be aware that there are steps that can be taken to decrease the risk of injury.
In a more recent study conducted by the British Army, a series of strengthening and stretching exercises were found to decrease the likelihood of injury in this study of new recruits going through training.
This confirms that running injuries may well be prevented by engaging in a consistent program of stretching and strengthening. In my experience, many runners just like to run, and it is difficult for them to get motivated to consistently engage in other supporting exercises. It might help to think of a routine of yoga two to three times per week as cross training, rather than thinking in terms of a more traditional stretching program.
In addition to strengthening and stretching as ways to decrease the frequency of running injuries, runners can also protect themselves by using sound principles in the development of their running plan. It has been shown that increasing mileage too quickly increases the likelihood of developing an injury. Be patient and increase mileage gradually. Even increasing mileage by one mile per week can add up substantially over the course of a year.
Runners should also be aware that the number of consecutive days you run can be related to injury. Spacing out those running days allows time for restoration of the muscles. Those “off days” are great days for aerobic cross training, yoga, or strength training.
We runners can be a little compulsive, so don’t forget that our mind can be our most important tool in avoiding running injuries. In addition to strengthening and stretching, remember to enjoy the run, relax, don’t focus on time, and don’t get too caught up in racking up long miles or fast times.