You’re psyched. You finally signed up for that half or full marathon you always wanted to, and you’ve already started training. You’re on a roll, building mileage to make sure you don’t injure yourself along the way. Louise Eriksson ¡ª CEO of Vint (think of it as Uber for fitness), a competitive marathoner, and a running trainer ¡ª has some must-follow tips for injury-free running.
Many runners gripe about issues with their knees, shins, hips, or lower backs, and aside from it being caused by changing the frequency, duration, or intensity of your runs too quickly, a lot of that has to do with muscular imbalances. When certain leg muscles are stronger than others, like the quads, they can pull on ligaments and cause discomfort or pain ¡ª?especially in the knees. “[But] strong glutes keep the ligaments in your knees nice and strong and keep your body aligned,” says Louise. If shin splints are your concern, be sure to strengthen the muscles in the lower front legs with toe flutters. And since running can tone the abs, do some back-strengthening exercises to prevent muscular imbalance and pain in this area.
Balance Is Key
Running long distances tires out your legs, and it taxes dozens of small muscles, tendons, and ligaments in your feet and ankles, making this area prone to injury. The solution? Louise recommends including “balance-focused workouts in your weekly routine to strengthen your soles and ankles.” Heel walking as well as these seven exercises will strengthen the feet and ankles.
Time Over Distance
While many training schedules are focused on mileage, try not to get fixated on how fast you can run set distances. Louise says, “you’ll end up burning yourself out rather than working up to your goals.” She suggests forgetting about distance and focusing on running at a sustainable pace for set lengths of time. You can follow a training schedule that gradually builds up your mileage, but be sure to listen to your body, and attempt those longer distances as your body feels ready. And definitely don’t rush through an eight-week intermediate half-marathon training schedule when you really should be doing the beginner 16-weeker.
Try Short Distance Intervals
Sprinting intervals are not only great for targeting belly fat, but Louise says, “running really short distances (like 400 or 800 meters) as fast as you can a few times a week will get your body, heart, and lungs fitter, faster.” It also reminds you to mix up the types of runs you do to prevent sustaining injuries associated with running long distances too often.
Don’t Skip the Stretch Session
If you’re short on time, you want to spend every minute that you can building up mileage or working on speed. But make sure to leave at least 10 minutes at the end of your workout to do these essential stretches to target the hamstrings, quads, hips and hip flexors, glutes, calves, shins, and lower back. Spending some time foam rolling your IT band can also prevent knee pain. And stretching isn’t just for post-workout. Louise recommends doing “some dynamic stretch movements after your first mile of jogging before the rest of your run.” These aren’t static stretches, but rather movement-based exercises that stretch your muscles. Try high knee kicks or holding onto a tree and kicking your leg forward and back as high as you can 10 times on each side. Or try these dynamic yoga warmup moves.
For the ultimate injury-free training, hop in the pool and do some deep-water running wearing a flotation belt. Louise says when you don’t have to tread water to stay afloat, you can focus on your running form and use your arms and really activate you core and glutes. It’s super efficient and low impact!
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