Dealing with injuries as a runner

Learn more about how to help prevent injuries and how to deal with them if you do suffer an injury.

It is important that you listen to your body and take extra rest days if you need them. If you have an injury niggle, being sensible in the early stages could prevent a long term injury problem. Avoiding long layoffs as much as possible, so that you can train regularly and consistently, is the best the way to achieve your running goals.

Warming up and cooling down

Before you start running, make sure you're well warmed up. At the start of your program, you'll be using a brisk walk to warm up before you start running, then, as you start running, gradually build up to your comfortable running pace. As you progress as a runner, you'll naturally start to run at a quicker pace. When you're out for a faster run, it's useful to do some dynamic stretches or movements before you start. These dynamic movements are aimed at taking the muscles through a good range of motions, in an active way, and they prime the muscles for action. It's thought that too much sustained stretching before exercise is not useful, rather some brief dynamic movements or stretches will be adequate. Dynamic stretching is really like stretching as you move. Examples include gluteal stretches and quadricep stretches as you slowly walk forwards, hamstring sweeps, leg swings, gentle walking lunges, high knees, and ankle movements.

After exercise, more sustained static type stretches are helpful to promote good alignment of muscle fibres and to help prevent tightening up of muscles and maintain flexibility.

Strategies to help prevent injury

Regular stretching Regular massages and stretching

Regular massages are helpful to address any tight areas of muscle as you build up your running. At home it's useful to stretch regularly between your runs. You may want to invest in a foam roller which is particularly helpful for working on tight areas of muscle.

Vary surface Varying the surfaces you run on

Running on softer surfaces when possible, such as on grass or trails, will help reduce impact through the joints and muscles. However, if the surface is too uneven or muddy, this could be tougher work for the muscles. If you vary the surface, you run on you're less likely to suffer from overuse types of injuries.

Cross training Cross training

Cross training is good to include in your training if you're struggling with running and can also be added at appropriate times to boost fitness levels. Choose something that will give you an aerobic workout but avoids the impact of running. Swimming, aqua running and cycling on stationary bikes are good choices.

Protein Eat a healthy diet

Eating a balanced diet, with the right nutrients, ensures your body has everything it needs to perform at its best and recover after running. For example, low levels of protein intake can lead to an increased likelihood of picking up an injury.

Timing of nutrition

If you do suffer an injury

Unfortunately, runners of all levels of experience sustain an injury from time to time. It can be extremely frustrating, especially if it occurs when you feel like you've been making good progress or you're getting close to your goal. But how you react and deal with being injured can determine how much the injury disrupts your running and impacts your fitness and mental wellbeing.

Stop running and ice

When you first feel the injury, stop running and as soon as you can apply ice to the injured area. This is useful to reduce inflammation and promote healing. Apply the ice pack for 5-10 minutes and repeat regularly. If the area is very inflamed a compression bandage can help to reduce swelling. Elevating the injury is useful, particularly if the injured area is quite swollen.

The advice post injury is often referred to as R.I.C.E, which stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Over the counter anti-inflammatory medications may be helpful in some cases too.

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