5 Steps Every Runner Should be Taking to Reduce Injury Risk
There is no secret potion to running health. If there was, you bet the creator would be a millionaire. Athletes and runners in particular happen to be quite unpleasant when their form of active stress relief is taken from them. If you deny this, ask your best friend or spouse about your attitude when you couldn’t run. They probably recall this time to be just as unpleasant for them as it was for you. With all that being said, wouldn’t it be nice if you could become better at warding off the small aches and pains? There are a few key components that will help you with your overall health and running performance. Now this isn’t as easy as a secret potion, but chances are you will find some areas that you can work on.
1. Get more sleep
How many of us have ever said, “well I only need __ hours of sleep to operate well.” Chances are if the filled in blank is less than 8 you are not getting the complete benefits that sleep has to offer. Sleep is the optimal healing time for your body. While you are asleep the body releases hormones that encourage tissue growth. This helps with injuries or even just with sore muscles from your last workout. Studies have also shown positive correlation between sleep and perception of athletic performance. How nice would it be to show up to a starting line healthy and confident! It may be challenging hitting a certain number of hours, but consider trying just to slowly increase your current total. Life circumstances can make sleep hard, but injury can also make those life circumstances harder.
2. Strengthen your hips
It is no coincidence that in with injuries that most of us have faced, we were told we have weak hips or glutes. Hip strength and mobility is one of the most important and easy keys to a healthier running life. Your hip muscles help extend, flex or rotate the hip and femur and they assist in controlling pelvic stability during weight bearing. If the hips are strong, this can help optimize your biomechanics. This can help reduce compensation in other areas not meant to be as heavily loaded. A simple hip routine after runs a few days a week can make all the difference. There are a number of exercises you could be doing, here are a few we suggest. Start with 2 sets of 8-10 each leg.
- Donkey Kicks
- Fire Hydrants
- Lateral Leg Raises
- Clam Shells
3. Stretch and roll after your run
As tempting as it is to just go on with your day once you have finished a run, it is still important to take an extra 5 or 10 minutes to stretch. Stretching helps with increased range of motion and muscular coordination. Research has also shown that more flexible muscles recover quicker as they are readily prepared for glycogen replacement. Take it to the next level by adding in some foam rolling. Foam rolling brings blood flow to the area you are working on which leads to the restoration of healthy tissues. It also breaks up myofascial adhesions between the muscles. This leads to a quicker recovery process!
4. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
Regardless if it is summer or winter, hydration plays a critical role in running health and performance. Water plays a large part in the proper functioning of muscles, joints and blood vessels. Now hydration needs for individuals will vary. This depends on size and how much one sweats. You should be adequately hydrated before starting a run. The 2-4 hour window before a run is a very important time to pay extra close attention to your hydration. Post run hydration is equally as crucial. During summer months this may mean rehydrating with additional electrolytes due to excessive sweat loss. Post run hydration can affect how the body will recover for your next workout. Consider this, the average person (not active person) is recommended to drink 8 glasses of water a day. For an active person, this needs to be considerably more. Hydration shouldn’t be complicated. Listen to your body cues and be aware of how much water you are consuming each day.
5. Balance easy and hard days
You have probably heard someone tell you to take your easy days easy and let your hard days be hard. This is something very important for your overall running health. Giving your body time to recover after hard sessions is crucial. This doesn’t mean that there needs to be off days in between to be recovered, this means that you need to vary your effort levels appropriately. Active recovery is still recovery.