Any long distance runner knows that injuries are an inevitable part of life as a runner. Injuries are virtually never preventable, regardless of whether you are a casual long-distance runner or training for a marathon. Running is one of the most effective exercises to keep your cardiovascular system in tip-top shape, and also one of the most effective weight loss strategies. It requires strong mental and physical endurance, which is why if you are a runner, you should be proud! The reason why so many people get impressed by running is because its something everyone needs to work hard at. Even natural runners struggle with different aspects of the sport. But with all of the benefits running provides, it also wreaks havoc on your body. The continuous pounding puts pressure on your spine, joints and bones. All the benefits running provides, it’s obvious there must be some setbacks. Running injuries are one of the most frustrating parts of the sport, and the only way to recover from an injury is to steer clear of running until 100% healed.
But fear not! There are plenty of ways to prevent yourself from getting an injury by practicing a few of these things both before and after your long runs. Many runners dig themselves their own hole because they don’t take the time to properly care for their body after runs. Whether you have shin splints, lack of nutrition or chronic muscle soreness, considering these tricks will make your body feel well-rested and better recovered, not to mention, potentially eliminate time off the couch icing your knees while watching Netflix.
1. Foam rollers
These are ideal for stretching out those tired muscles after long runs. After long runs, your muscles are so torn and worn out that you want to prevent them from getting tight. All of that lactic acid sits in your legs and a foam roller helps to crank some of that build up out. Lactic acid is responsible for the extreme soreness you feel the day after a run.
2. Well-balanced diet
This seems obvious as a runner, but taking care of your body and refueling after runs is key to repairing the muscle that is so torn down. A well-balanced diet will help to prevent iron-deficiency, a very common setback for long distance runners. A well-balanced diet will help you to recover quicker and feel stronger when running. The last thing you want to do after runs is feel like you can eat whatever you want. In some regard, this is true, but be conscious of what foods and nutrients you are using to replace those burned calories. I can assure you that two cheeseburgers versus chicken or steak and vegetables and rice won’t sit well with your body.
3. Ice! Ice! Ice!
Ice baths and icing are runners worst nightmares. Many lack the patience (and courage) to sit in a bathtub filled with ice for even 10 minutes. Ice is so important to healing those awful shin splints, swollen ankle joints or sore quads. Ice helps to relieve uncomfortable pain, but also reduces swelling. It constricts blood vessels and decreases the speed of blood flow to the affected area.
Listen to your body: Pushing your body to its limit can help you get better, but the more you ignore how your body feels both before and after a workout can also affect the quality of your runs. If both your ankles are swollen, ice them before and after a run. Stick with a routine that works well for you before entering any unknown territory. The reason your body hurts or is sore is because it tries to tell us something. Don’t fight what your body is naturally trying to tell you, because you can end up with much worse injuries and even unwelcome time off.
Maintaining your flexibility is ideal for preventing injuries. Stretching warms your muscles up and gets them prepared for the exercise you are about to do. The more flexible your muscles are the more they are a protectant to your tendons, joints, and bones.
While running injuries happen to different people at different stages of their running career, they are almost inevitable. There is rarely a runner that doesn’t experience some sort of setbacks in his or her career. Following these steps can help ensure that injuries will be less frequent and less severe. Happy running!