Running exerts a great deal of stress on the bones and muscles; so then it’s no wonder why so many who participate in the sport (whether recreationally or competitively) are constantly dealing with injuries, right?
Don’t let this lazy logic suck you into an endless cycle of running-related injuries.
Jason Karp, PhD, creator of the Run-Fit Specialist certification and author of five books, including 101 Winning Racing Strategies for Runners and Running a Marathon For Dummies says there’s really no reason why runners, even those covering many miles, like when training for a marathon, should get injured.
In Running a Marathon for Dummies he explains that preventing common running injuries comes down to a few simple concepts, the most important of which is “training smartly.”
What exactly does it mean to train smart?
According to Karp it mainly involves increasing your weekly mileage at appropriate amounts, maintaining or decreasing weekly mileage when adding intense interval workouts to your routine, alternating between hard and easy days, and allowing for adequate recovery time between workouts.
In other words, make sure you’re not overdoing it, both in terms of workout volume and intensity.
“The main reason why injuries happen is because the physical stress from running is too much for your body to handle at that time,” Karp writes.
That said, even Karp admits that it’s possible to endure an injury no matter how many precautions you set in place. Even with a perfect training program, the very best shoes for your feet, and a solid nutrition plan, as Karp puts it frankly, “sometimes you can get injured without any apparent reason”.
So whether it’s the result of poorly planned training or an unfortunate curse cast unto you by the Running Gods, these are, according to Karp, the most common running injuries, and the proper treatment protocols for a speedy recovery.
Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (Knee Pain)
According to Karp, Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome is “the fancy medical term for knee pain” and it accounts for about 25 percent of running-related injuries. Though, he makes a point to note that this does not mean running is “bad for your knees.” Symptoms include discomfort “behind, below, or around your patella” (the knee bone) that usually presents itself in gradual stages and that’s worsened while running or walking up and down stairs.
Karp says knee pain can be caused by a number of different factors, including “strength imbalances, weakness in the hip muscles, and excessive or insufficient pronation”, to name a few. For many runners, knee pain can be avoided by maintaining adequate lower body strength, especially in the quadriceps, hamstrings, hips, and glutes. If this is an injury you’re already dealing with, in addition to strength training, Karp recommends using orthotics (especially if you over- or under-pronate), knee braces, and if necessary, reducing the amount of running you do and eliminating hills from your routes.
Iliotibial Band Friction Syndrome (IT Band Pain)
Runners experiencing pain near the outside of the knee are likely dealing with Iliotibial Band (IT band) Friction Syndrome, an injury that, according to Karp, represents about 12 percent of all running-related injuries. It’s attributed to several different causes, some of which include “excessive or abrupt increases in running mileage, excessive amounts of downhill running or unidirectional track running, stiff shoes, high-arched feet, and weakness in the hips and glute muscles”.
To treat IT band pain, Karp first recommends stretching the affected area (see exercise number 5 here) as well as icing, foam rolling, and if the pain is especially severe, taking a break from running until it no longer persists.