Over the course of your life time as a runner, you are likely to get hurt. That’s because running puts your body through a lot of stress. Of course, it’s not the running that’s a problem. It’s more about how you move and how often you train. This is especially true when it comes to chronic injuries (problems that build up over time. These are different from acute injuries. They set in because of a specific incident, like tripping over a branch and spraining your ankle.)

Unfortunately, you can't do much to prevent accidental running injuries. But there are lots of steps you can take to prevent chronic problems. Read on for the smartest ways to protect your body from running injuries. And, if it's time to take a break, check out our tips for keeping up your stamina while you can't run.

4 Runner’s Risks (And How to Overcome Them) Fast training buildups lead to running injuries

These common running mistakes could hurt. But smart training can keep you safe and injury free:

1. Overdoing Increases

If you quickly increase speed or distance training, you may ‘run’ into trouble. Fast leaps don’t give your body time to adjust to extra stress.  To avoid overload injuries, be careful as you work towards new goals. If you’re trying to run faster, work up to your build up to the new speed in smaller chunks. And be sure to lower your mileage while you’re upping the speed. Working on distance? Do the opposite! Add a little length to each run (about 10% increase each week.) And, while you’re adjusting to longer runs, slow your pace. At least until your body gets used to the extra road time.


2. Forgetting to Cross Train

Running can't be your only form of exercise. If you don't build up strength in the muscles that support your runs, you’re almost certain to get hurt. What should you do? Check out our guide to cross training for runners. And focus on resistance training for your core, glutes and calf muscles. Not only will this decrease your injury risk when you run, it will also make you a stronger, faster runner.


3. Skipping Out on Rest

You can’t run every single day and expect to avoid injury. Even the easiest jog puts some strain on your body. Take a day or two between running sessions to give your body a chance to heal.


4. Premature Returns from Previous Injuries

Let’s say you’ve already gotten a running injury, or you develop a problem in the next little while. Whether you see me or a different podiatrist, one of us will tell you to stop running for a little while. But, you’re a runner, so this advice will be hard to follow. Which is why so many of you return to training too soon. After all, if you feel fine, why shouldn’t you get back to running?

The answer is this: if your body isn’t fully healed, you’re setting yourself up for trouble. Even if you feel all better. Come back too soon, and you’ll be back in the doctor’s office within weeks. Either with the exact same injury or, more likely, with an even more serious problem,)

When you’re coming back from a running injury, it’s crucial to follow your podiatrist’s exact treatment plan. As a Houston running doc, I do my best to give you options that allow you to stay active while you heal. So check out these tips for keeping up your stamina when you have to take a break.


Staying Fit on a Running Break: Find a Running Alternative

Taking a rest day? Got an injury? You don't have to sit on the couch. Instead, try moving in different ways. One great idea? Runners need to engage in active stretching to avoid injury

1. Stretching

More than a warm up or cool down, stretching can help build your fitness. That's because it can improve your flexibility. But it also protects your mobility.

Runners should try active stretching. And focus on specific areas of your body, like your upper back, hips and ankles. These areas take a lot of pressure when you run.


2. Build Strength

Like I mentioned earlier, runners should always cross train. But it's especially important when you can't run. One great option is resistance training. But don't think this has to involve weights. You can also try resistance bands. Or even body weight alone.

The important part of this tip? Focus on your whole body, not just your legs. Build up your hips and glutes, your core and even your upper body. Why? Running is a whole body workout. If you have an area of weakness, your legs will compensate when you run. That's when we start to see overuse injuries. And, soon, you'll be knocked back out of training.

3. Don't Forget Cardio

When you can't run, it's a great time to try a low-impact workout, like swimming. Check out my pool workout for runners, I think you'll love it! Moves like these keep your fitness levels up without inhibiting the healing process. But don't just take my word for it. In fact, after tennis star Naomi Osaka injured her Achilles tendon at the Madrid open, she turned to water workouts. Recently, she posted Twitter video of herself running on an underwater treadmill during a rehab session. 

With tips like these, I hope to help you see the long game. My goal with runner’s recovery is to allow you to return to training at the earliest possible date. But I pick that date knowing that a rushed return will only hurt your ability to run for months and years to come.  So, while you're sidelined, I do my best to keep you active so you never lose progress. Need help rebuilding after an injury, or want to build a safer training plan for your runs? Come into the office for a running apointment! We can analyze your gait so we learn your running style and explore new ways to train so you can stick to your goals! 

Coming Back after a Running Injury

While choosing a running alternative will help you maintain cardio fitness while you recover, you can't jump back into your old routine right after you heal. In fact, I want you to act like a new runner when you're coming back from a running injury. What does that look like? It could mean different things for different people. But the following steps should keep you from getting hurt a second time. 

1. Start by walking your old training distance, at a steady but not too brisk pace. 

2. Work up to a combination of running mixed with walking breaks. 

3. Build rest days into your training schedule to let your body heal from and adjust to your training routine. 

4. Spend even more time warming up and cooling down, to protect your tender muscles. 

Want even more support for running injuries, or do you need guidance about running alternatives while you recover? Contact the office and let us know you're dealing with a running injury. We'll get you in and help you get some pain relief while preserving and rebuilding your endurance. 

Dr. Andrew Schneider
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A podiatrist and foot surgeon in Houston, TX.
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