How to avoid running injuries this year, according to a personal trainer

For many of us, January is a time for new fitness resolutions. Maybe you have training goals you want to achieve, or maybe you want to get back into training – whatever it is, you want to do it safely and sustainably.

Running can be a fantastically accessible form of exercise because you don’t need an expensive gym membership or lots of fancy equipment. All you have to do is dig up a matching pair of sneakers and some stamina.

While running is great – especially now that we’re on the other side of the winter solstice and the days are getting longer and longer from here on out – it’s definitely something you should also be careful with as injuries can happen.

“Running is a very repetitive activity and as such, wear and tear will worsen over time if injuries are ignored,” explains Mark Davis, personal trainer at David Lloyd Clubs (davidlloyd.co.uk).

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There are many reasons to start running. Along with the physical benefits, it gives you “a reconnection with nature,” Davis says. However, it is very powerful – especially when running on sidewalks – and in some cases it can damage the joints, for example.

What should you watch out for when running?

“A common mistake runners make is not considering the long-term effects of poor form and a lack of mobility and strength,” explains Davis.

“If you don’t make safe running a priority, it will catch up with you in the long run and cause issues like severe tendonitis and plantar fasciitis that will interfere with your everyday life.”

How can you reduce the stress on your joints?

For Davis, there are two key things to think about when running safely.

“Focus on landing on the ball of the foot instead of the heel first,” he says – because “landing heel first stops the body’s shock absorbers.”

“Second, many new runners have a stride that is too big – if the foot lands too far from the body on landing, the impact is transmitted to the legs. Aim for the foot to land under the hips to reduce stress on the joints.”

It may go without saying, but it is also very important that you wear appropriate footwear. Poorly fitting, worn out running shoes or ones that just aren’t the right design for your needs can contribute to painful runs and injuries. If you are unsure, go to a running sports retailer and get advice.

What do different age groups need to think about?

All runners risk tendinitis, torn ligaments and worn cartilage. But, as Davis explains, “as we age, our bodies produce fewer hormones and blood flow decreases, which in turn lengthens the recovery process” – so older joggers need to take a little more care.

“I would suggest that all age groups prioritize good form, effective warm-ups and cooldowns, and follow a progressive training schedule rather than going all-out as a newbie,” Davis adds.

What to do if running hurts?

Overcoming the pain won’t do you any favors – so listen to your body.

“If you’re in pain while running, it’s your body telling you something is wrong,” says Davis. “Injuries should always be treated.”

In these situations, he recommends taking a break from running to “solve the root cause of the problem, whether that’s strengthening specific muscles or working on flexibility.”

You may need to see a physical therapist or doctor if it’s really problematic or not improving. Additionally, Davis often suggests that clients with running injuries try swimming because they “can still benefit from cardio training and breathing techniques while maintaining low-impact exercise.”

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