Running is by far the most popular, most accessible physical activity in the world. According to the Office of National Statistics, during the year between November 2018 and November 2019, 6.8 million people in the UK alone went for a run at least twice within a 28 day window.
With this being followed by the Coronavirus pandemic, this figure experienced an astonishing 80% increase; as gyms shut, the world closed down, and running offered the only escape to an otherwise dire situation.
The activity of running hosts a whole range of diverse benefits for the modern day runner. Not only does the physical activity encourage the development of healthy bones and stronger joints, but it also helps to build muscle, shed fat, and boost healthy circulation.
Running is a great way to regulate blood sugar, and control cholesterol levels. At a mental level, running also serves as a workable, practical solution to deal with stress, sharpen your cognitive ability - including things like concentration, memory and motivation - as well as treating anxiety, depression and insomnia.
The fact that all these great benefits are brought together by running’s easy accessibility only makes the activity that much more appealing.
But as good as running may be, as with anything, there are some downsides that you should definitely watch out for. Even professional marathon-level runners won’t be able to help running into these pit-traps from time to time. Because of how running plays on your centre of gravity, the sport can actually be much more physically hazardous than you might initially think.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but running is full of potential for injury. Some of the most common amongst these include:
Are you experiencing a dull, tireless pain across the front of your shinbone? Is the
pain tender to the touch, and does it get worse the more you try to run away from it? This sensation is what’s known as tibial stress syndrome - or is more commonly identified as shin splints. These often occur when you try to increase your volume of running too quickly; and it often goes hand-in-hand with running too regularly on hard surfaces.
Although they’re not immediately life threatening, if left untreated, shin splits do unfortunately have the ability to develop into stress fractures, which happen to be a much more serious condition that can garner long-term conditions for the health of your bones.
The knees are an integral part of our ability to run, so it will come as no surprise
that they’re usually the first victim of running-related injury. The more technical term for this condition is called patellofemoral syndrome, and can easily be identified by the sharp pain that accompanies it, and by the popping sound it generates from within the knee itself. And it won’t hold itself back to just the times when you’re running.
Oh no, in fact, runner’s knee can actually be quite debilitating, and can prevent the enjoyment and efficiency of other exercises; like jumping and squatting.
For all our female readers out there, this is actually quite a serious condition that you should do everything in your power to avoid. When you run, your breasts move in a figure of eight pattern, rather than in the up and down movement that you might assume.
The breasts are supported by what are known as Cooper’s Ligaments, and when the breasts aren’t properly supported - not just when running, but during high-impact sports too - these supportive ligaments can experience a tremendous amount of strain.
What’s so concerning about this is that when this strain occurs, the ligaments aren’t able to revert back to their original shape, which will leave your assets permanently sagging with equally as permanent damage. This damage can be especially ruining if you’re sporting bigger assets.
Although we could spend all day talking about the details of running’s darker side, we’d much rather brighten your day with practical solutions that’ll minimise your risk of running-related injury.
So here are our solutions that’ll make your running experience that little bit smoother:
1. Don’t Be Hard On Yourself
The relationship between surface and injury is very closely
interlinked. When running on hard surfaces, like concrete or the treadmill for example, the physical shock of each step as you push down into the floor below will act as a catalyst to common injury.
Although you’re more than welcome to invest in a pair of expensive running shoes, it’s much easier to lighten the blow by venturing off the concrete path, onto softer terrains like grass, dedicated running tracks, and even gravel. This is especially worth noting if you’re currently in the process of recovering from an existing injury, as your running will be less prone to physical shock.
2. Hip Hip Hooray
One of the most beneficial techniques we can suggest that’ll decrease your risk of injury is to strengthen your hips. They’re the very centre of the body, and also the centre of your running technique. If you’re hips are out of shape, you’ll be in much greater danger of injuring yourself whilst running.
This is where the likes of glute bridges, hip circles, and box walks will work wonders. And if you’re really serious about strengthening your hips and bettering your running ability, the use of Latex Resistance Bands during these hip-targeting workouts will take your efforts so much further.
3. Cross Train No Strain
We know this might sound odd, but one of the best ways to improve your running ability whilst minimising your risk of injury is to train equally across a range of exercises. Indulging exclusively in running does show some serious dedication, but it’s also not that healthy. What your body needs to be able to best avoid injury is diversity, and this diversity will also help to strengthen your running muscles whilst giving them a well deserved break.
Because running involves a lot of bouncing, things like skipping actually offers a low impact, highly beneficial alternative that’ll strengthen all of the muscles in your legs that’d usually be utilised during running. Swimming and yoga will also prove to be incredibly beneficial to your level of aerobic endurance too.
4. Endurance Aware
The timeframe during which the most injuries occur when running typically coincides when we push ourselves too far. And yes, of course it’s very good - both physically and mentally - to push yourself from time to time, if you don’t stop when you feel like you really should, you’re literally opening the door to injury.
Running is much more physical than we might first assume, and there’s a very fine line between accomplishment and injury. Set targets and try your very best to achieve them. But if you don’t, don’t sweat it.
Try again another day. And remember that it’s better to stop and be able to try again, than to endure through tears, injure yourself and be physically unable to try again at all. Know your limits, and you’ll be safe and sound from any running-related injury.
5. Warm Up & Cool Down
As miraculous as it is, the body just isn’t a light switch. If you’re planning to go for a run, and especially if you have your mind focussed on running far into the distance, practicing warm ups - like light jogging and stretches - are an absolute must. This is because a warm up will gradually introduce your body to the physical demands of an exercise like running.
It steadily increases the heart rate at a healthy pace, warms up those all- important muscles, improves blood flow and oxygen efficiency, and encourages breathing regulation. And when you feel that you’ve run as far as you’re able, it’s also equally as important to cool down. Cooling down will remove the accumulation of lactic acid, treat muscle soreness and aid in muscle relaxation. When combined, these benefits will contribute to a risk-free, injury-free running experience.
When considering these top tips, it’s important to remember to take everything at your own pace, in your own stride. Although it’s good to challenge yourself, always remember what you know you’re capable of. Overreaching offers a sure-fire, one-way ticket to injury, and remaining inside healthy, manageable parameters offers a prime solution to preventing this.
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