5 tips for preventing running injuries

Last year, when I really got into running regularly, I went too hard, too fast, and ended up with a

Cold weather, woman runs through urban city street. She wears full running gear. Weather looks grey and cold.photo credit: shutterstock

Last year, when I really got into running regularly, I went too hard, too fast, and ended up with a very painful left hip that ended up being due to overly tight hip flexors. The result? I had to take three months off, and even now, a couple of weeks into running again, I have to be pretty careful not to overdo it. I ran an 8K race on Saturday (Harry’s Spring Run-Off in Toronto) and it was probably too much for me, as I’ve been feeling tender since the race.

Overdoing it is a bit of a personality trait for me — and for many people attracted to running, I think. Here are a few tips on avoiding injury and staying healthy during the running season, and in any sport, really.

1. Don’t increase too fast
One of the mistakes I made last season was to increase my mileage really quickly. I ran about 35 km in July and 70 km in August — no wonder my body freaked out. The rule of thumb I always hear is to increase by no more than 10 percent a week, and I think it’s a good one to follow.

2. Treat your body well
Sometimes we live in denial that our bodies aren’t 18 anymore, and just don’t recover that quickly. So warm up before your runs, stretch well afterward, take regular rest days, get massages and apply heat if you’re feeling stiff. And just as important: eat good, healing food and get lots of sleep. Your body can’t regenerate without proper fuel and rest.

3. Beware of change
If you’re changing any aspect of your workout, such as adding intervals or hills or moving from the treadmill to ourdoors, ease off on the mileage to compensate. I have a bad habit of too much walking and running on pavement in the spring, and tend to get shin splints as a result. This year, I’m trying hard to limit myself and prevent injury.

4. Listen to your body
Are your legs tired today? It’s okay to skip your run (as long as you’re not doing it all the time!). Go for a walk or a swim instead, or take the day off. There’s a difference between laziness and your body needing a break.

5. Treat problems early
A bit of soreness from exercise is normal. But if it lasts more than a couple of days, or feels like more than just sore muscles, go to your doctor or another medical professional and get it checked out. It’s a lot easier to treat an injury early than when you’ve been living with it for months. If I’d gotten my hip checked out when I first experienced pain, instead of after months of living in denial, my recovery would have been easier and faster.

What are your tips for preventing running injuries, and what have you learned the hard way?

View all of Kat’s running posts on the Half-marathon diaries home page.