How to keep running injury-free

How to keep running injury-free

Running is a great form of exercise. Just about anyone can run – all you need is a pair of running shoes – which makes this form of exercise inexpensive and accessible to the masses.

Running can:

  • Boost your cardiovascular health
  • Strengthen your muscles, bones and joints
  • Help you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight
  • Elevate your mood by prompting your body to produce feel-good hormones that can give you a runner's high

With all these benefits, it's no wonder running has been a popular way to exercise for a long time. However, runners can face some challenges, too.

Common roadblocks

"Runners must deal with overuse and fatigue injuries, such as plantar fasciitis, shin splints, strains and sprains," said Keith Jarbo, MD, an orthopedic surgeon and independent member of the HonorHealth Medical Staff. "Lower extremity injuries are the most common."

While rest and ice are often enough to lessen minor aches and pains, some symptoms may point to more serious problems. It's a good idea to see your doctor if you experience pain that occurs regularly only while running or immediately after a running session, or pain that does not improve within 48 to 72 hours of a running session. Dr. Jarbo cautions runners not to ignore upper extremity and chest pain, either. Instead, make an appointment to see your doctor.

Also, it's important to pay close attention to your surroundings to avoid potential hazards. "Runners have to be aware of their environment, particularly here in Arizona, to avoid heat illness, such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke," Dr. Jarbo said.

Staying healthy while on the run

You can reduce the risks associated with running. Allow running to be a regular and beneficial part of your life by:

  • Listening to your body and creating a running program tailored to your fitness level and ability.

    "The biggest problems with running occur when you do too much, too soon, too fast," Dr. Jarbo said. "The body needs time to adapt and change when running mileage and intensity increase. Muscles and joints need time to recover to handle increasing training demands. If that time is rushed, your body can break down instead of build up."

  • Participating in cross training, which provides rest and recovery. Not everyone can run 100 – or even 10 – miles a week.

    "Cross training allows you to build and maintain strength while performing exercises that stress secondary running muscles," Dr. Jarbo said. It's important to work on your muscular balance in order to stay healthy. "If you don't have muscular balance, you lose symmetry. That's when you start to have problems."

  • Wearing well-fitting shoes when you run.

    To help your body better endure running and recover afterward, remember to stretch, and don't skip the appropriate warm-up and cool-down periods. And, of course, drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.

When to hang up your running shoes

Running isn't for everyone. If you suffer from degenerative joint disease or arthritis in your hip, knee, ankle or other joint, talk with your doctor to see if running is right for you. Running can cause arthritic joints to wear out at an accelerated pace and worsen the arthritic condition, causing even more pain and discomfort.

If you can't run, don't lose heart. Turn to other ways to stay fit without compromising your well-being. "Gentler exercise like swimming and bicycling can be easier on the joints," Dr. Jarbo noted.

Need support?

If you run into a joint or pain issue while jogging or getting ready to compete in a race, we can help.

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