Developing an injury is perhaps the most frustrating and upsetting thing that can happen to a runner. Something as simple as landing awkwardly or slightly overstretching can be enough to jeopardise months and months of hard training and put you on the sidelines for an indefinite time period. It doesn’t matter if you are approaching the end of your virtual challenge, or if are just days away from your first marathon, the fear of sustaining an injury is often in the back of any runner’s mind. Fortunately, there are ways that you can reduce the risk of developing an unanticipated pain.

Here we’ve provided some of our top tips for avoiding injury and making sure you stay fit, motivated and prepared to meet your individual goals. However, if you’re particularly concerned with any pain or injury you’re experiencing, please make sure you consult a specialist health professional. They’ll be able to provide specific information in regard to your individual problem and help create a program to assist you with your recovery.

Dont Overdo It

A large proportion of running injuries are caused by overtraining or by training too hard. People often expect far too much from their bodies and push their limits excessively, which inevitably leads to strains and niggles. Instead, be patient with your training and build your miles up gradually – it’ll considerably reduce the risk of injury, and still allow you to reach your goals.

Importance of Stretching

Stretching before and after training is something that many runners overlook, but it can actually be instrumental in preventing injury. It helps to keep the muscles flexible, which is needed to maintain a range of motion in the joints, and helps to loosen the muscles, allowing them to extend further than if they hadn’t been stretched.

Wear the Right Footwear

Running in the wrong type of shoe or a pair that is completely worn out can be detrimental to both your physical health and your performance levels. It’s extremely uncomfortable and can cause pain in your feet, knees, legs and hips, especially if the shoes have lost their cushioning. Having a good pair of running trainers should be one of every runner’s priorities.

Train on the Right Surface

The type of surface you run on will also affect the likelihood of you developing an injury. Where possible, try to train on ground that absorbs shock rather than passing it through to your legs. Concrete, for example, is incredibly hard and is a terrible surface for running. Grass on dirt trails are ideal, particularly when going for longer distance runs as they are softer and decrease the chances of an impact-related injury.

Work Your Other Muscles

It’s not uncommon for injuries to arise when you forget about the muscles you don’t use while running. As running strengthens the back of your legs more than the front of your legs, many runners encounter a pain in the knee. You may have relatively weak quads which aren’t strong enough to keep your kneecap moving in its proper groove, which is what is causing the pain. By strengthening these other muscles (perhaps spend 10 -20 minutes a couple of times a week training your quads), you are much less likely to develop this type of injury.

Heel Striking & Position of Your Foot

Heel striking is when your heel hits the ground first when walking or running. It can lead to shin splints, pain in the joints and injuries associated with the knee. Studies have shown that runners who land-mid-foot and with their feet directly underneath their body experience considerably fewer injuries than those who tend to land on their heels first, so try to adopt this style when running.

Another thing to bear in mind is the position of your foot after every stride. Those who run with either their feet pointed out or in are much more at risk of developing ankle or knee issues so try to make sure your feet are parallel to each other. If at first it feels uncomfortable, try it for a few short runs – it should gradually start to feel more natural.

Body Position

Try to stay upright with your shoulders back and relaxed during your runs. Hunched shoulders will cause difficulty breathing as your chest is compressed, and your lower back is probably going to ache either while your run or after you’ve finished. A strong core will make it easier to maintain a healthy posture whilst running, so incorporate some regular core exercises into your training schedule.

Neck and back pain is also a condition that runners are prone to due to the position of your head. If it is tilted too far back, your head will place strain on your neck muscles, and holding it too far forward is likely to cause neck and back pain. Aim to maintain your head above your shoulders and hips.

When to Return from Injury

If you’re currently injured, the last thing you want to do is rush back into training too soon as it is likely to make the problem even worse. Ease back into your schedule slowly, and make sure you’ve spoken to your doctor or physical therapist to clarify that it’s safe for you to start running again.

Virtual Running Challenges with Race at your Pace

If you’re looking for an exciting running challenge to complete, then look no further than Race at your Pace. We inspire and motivate people to enjoy the outdoors through our highly popular virtual running challenges. Each month we run awesome virtual challenges of varying distances that people of all abilities can take part in. You have the entire month to cover your chosen distance in however many runs you like, wherever you like, and whenever you like. And once complete, you’ll receive a prestigious medal as a recognition of your hard work and commitment!

We have a challenge for people of all ages and abilities to participate in – sign up today!

See more: Diet & Nutrition Tips for Runners

See more: Choosing the Best Running Clothes & Equipment