Spring Into Running: Strategies for an Injury-Free Season

friends running together

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Does the warmer weather and increasing sunshine have you eager to “spring” right back into your running shoes? Did you get excited to sign up for that half marathon at the start of the new year, but now feel unsure of how to progress those miles? Are you returning from an injury that has held you back and having concerns about how to safely log those long runs again without creating future injuries? A wide variety of factors from correct strengthening of necessary muscles to strategies in progression of training play a crucial role in returning to running.

The glimpses of sun and hope for warmer days bring the excitement of lacing up the running shoes and starting the training for the summer race season. However, if you have had a break from running due to the cold winter or injury there are essential steps to prepare your body to minimize injury risk and enjoy a pain-free running season.

Runners’ starting line:

Whether you are a seasoned runner coming off a winter break or a new running enthusiast ready to hit the pavement, it’s important to have a healthy starting point to build on. Ensure you have shoes that are comfortable to you and feel good to run in. While bright yellow shoes may look incredible, your body will thank you later on for choosing comfort over style. Start with a run-walk exercise 3-4 days for the first few weeks to gauge where your body is at and prepare it for longer bouts of running if that is your goal.

Progressing your running miles:

Did you know that most injuries runners experience come from overuse because of progressing training too quickly?

Maybe it’s the eagerness of the run that will have you wanting to double your weekly distance from one week to the next. Perhaps it was procrastination and before you knew it that race you committed to is in 2 weeks and the realization that you have not trained enough causes you to jump from 10 to 30 miles of running in a week. 

Before you know it you are back on the couch and missing out on your workouts due to a preventable injury.

Progressing too quickly does not allow the body to adapt to the stresses resulting in higher occurrences of injuries. A simple rule to follow is the 10% rule, being that you increase your weekly total miles by 10% one week to the next. It will feel slow to start, but 6 weeks later you will be amazed by how much you have increased your distance and how great your body feels because it has had time to adapt to distance.

fit woman runs downhill on trail

Warm-Up & strengthening

The second most common cause of injuries in running is improper muscle balance from excessively tight or weak muscles. Strength training is an essential part of any running plan and should include working the quadriceps in the front of the leg and the hamstrings behind the leg, along with the core/gluteal muscles. This might be a day off from running that you focus on strength training or can be incorporated into the running days in smaller doses more frequently in the week. Stretching in those same muscle groups should always be completed after running. A common error is holding stretches prior to a run. This tells the muscles to relax, which puts them at increased injury risk. Focus instead on warming up the muscles and getting the heart rate raised prior to running with stretching after.

Getting to the finish:

Even with following perfect rules of training and doing all you can to prevent injuries, things can still happen in your training. It’s important to recognize pain that is the body trying to tell you to back off or soreness that is a normal part of training. When pain is more than soreness it’s not the time to push through it hoping it will go away. Listen to your body and adjust training as needed and if those pains continue to hold you back, work with your physical therapist. With correct training and proper body maintenance, you can be ready to hit the trails with confidence that you can reach your goals.

young fit man running on a pathway in town in the fall

Are you ready for spring running?

If you’re ready to hit the beautiful trails throughout the Treasure Valley, be sure to approach the running season slowly. If you have any questions about how to avoid running injuries while increasing your performance, whether you’re aiming for longer distance or faster speeds, we can help. Our passion is to help everyone reach their goals.

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