Woman stretching before running

Avoiding running injuries

Most runners have experienced the panic felt at the slightest twinge that occurs during a run. They think to themselves “Is this an injury? Something small that will go away? Should I keep running or stop?”

Like any physical activity, running may cause injuries if you do not take the necessary precautions. With some help from Dr. Thomas Fyda, an orthopaedic surgeon at Great Basin Orthopaedics, Part 1 of our Avoid Running Injuries series will cover basic tips for preventing running injuries when hitting the pavement, track or trail.

Warm Up and Cool Down

Stretching, warming up and cooling down are some of the most important steps in running. Warming up flushes lactic acid out of your muscles and helps to prevent soreness. Cooling down helps your heart return to near-resting rate. If your muscles are activated and you stop abruptly, you could experience lightheadedness or even faint due to the lack of blood flow to upper extremities. Slowing your heart rate gradually helps your blood flow return to normal. This is especially true during extreme temperatures in winter and summer; give your body time to adjust.

Stay Hydrated

As a runner, you lose a lot of your body’s water through sweating while running. A way to avoid heat exhaustion and dehydration is by pre-hydrating before you run and to re-hydrate every 15-20 minutes during exercise. It’s also important to re-hydrate after your run is finished. This can also help your body recover faster from your workout. If you’re running more than six miles, you need to carry water with you to replenish.

Listen To Your Body

Many runners may not recognize when their pain is cause for concern. According to Dr. Fyda, the most common running injuries are overuse injuries of the lower extremities, like tendonitis. When runners don’t listen to their body when it’s in pain, they are at a greater risk of overuse injuries. But how do you tell when the pain is serious?

“Body awareness,” answered Dr. Fyda. “Fatigue, being tired or sore from working out is all normal. Then there’s sharper, more persistent pain resulting from injury. In general, pain that is more persistent that doesn’t alleviate after rest is more concerning. If you have sharp pain that limits your mobility, it may be cause for concern.”

Take Your Time

A common mistake made by many athletes is that they try to push themselves as hard as possible and may end up injuring themselves in the process. According to Dr. Fyda, many beginning runners make the mistake of taking on too much too soon, which can result in overuse injuries. “Beginning runners often go into it too hard and up their intensity and distance too rapidly,” said Dr. Fyda. “They can end up with overuse injuries because they’re not adequately conditioned for what they’re doing. Runners need to progress at an appropriate pace, gradually increasing mileage and intensity of their workout over time.”

Whether you’re a beginning runner or a veteran, it’s important to listen to your body when you’re out there. “If you have sharp pain, if a particular activity is causing it, lay off for a while and see how you respond,” said Dr. Fyda. “If the pain persists, that’s when you should see a doctor. A good orthopaedic surgeon is most qualified to be the primary provider for a musculoskeletal complaint.”

RELATED: Avoid Running Injuries II