5 Ways to Prevent Running Injuries This Marathon Season

Even under the best circumstances, running is uncomfortable, but not all aches and pains are equally serious. How do you know when to seek medical help? I have a simple rule for athletes of all ages: If pain ages the mechanics of your movement, get it checked out. For example, if you’re a tennis player and the elbow pain during your forehand changes as you swing the racket, your easily treatable tennis elbow could be turning into a tear in the extensor tendon, a more serious injury.

The same is true with running. When shin splints are so painful that your running mechanics are altered and you’re hobbling, every foot strike could be turning the inflammation on the surface of the tibia into a far more serious tibial stress fracture.

Recognizing an injury is step one. Treating the injury is step two. Preventing it the next time is step three.

Left undiagnosed, repetitive use injuries become more severe, and recovery takes longer. Once your running injury is diagnosed, work with a sports medicine doctor or physical therapist to find the cause. It could be the type of shoes, running form, arthritis in a knee or hip or just the number of miles and pace. Although injuries among runners can be similar, the causes are often different, and effective prevention depends on fixing the cause.

As runners train for longer distances, whether two miles or 26.2, their backs, hips and knees become achier. I tell my patients that running is a constant battle between gravity and your body.

To win this battle, build strength. The stronger your muscles, the better able you are to withstand the forces from the ground that make everything hurt. High repetition, light weight strength training has been shown to reduce joint loading forces. Stronger muscles including hip flexors, glutes, quads and hamstrings are better able to withstand the pounding on the road and allow runners to better tolerate the miles, although scientists still haven’t found the perfect training method.

If you are a runner or walker, consider a full body strength program, such as the Times’ 9 Minute Workout, that incorporates functional movements like squats, lunges and burpees. Try and complete the regimen twice a week to build total body strength.