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Optimize Your Running Program to Stay Injury-Free

The days are long, the sun is bright and warm and we all get that natural pull to get out of the gym and head outside to exercise. But, away from the gym and fitness professionals we are on our own to build a balanced running program.

As you probably know, running can be really tough on the body, all that repeated impact can bedevil runners with shin splints, stress fractures, pulled muscles, ankle sprains, plantar fasciitis (heel pain), knee problems and chronic issues with their hips and lower back.

To prevent these side-lining injuries, make sure to use the right equipment and take precautions, including wearing the correct shoe for the surface, listening to your body and taking it easy if you’re feeling stiff or sore, and by slowly building the speed and intensity in your program over months not weeks.

The best running program is the one that you will stick with and the goal here is to create one that keeps you injury free and burning calories.

Start with the feet.

-Barefoot running on sand sounds awesome, but the simple fact is that our feet have evolved to the point that they need shoes to protect us from the wear and tear of any surface. Shoes made for running protect the foot and ankle from rolling and provide well-cushioned arch support to offset impact forces.

-For extra impact cushioning, buy a soft, over-the-counter shoe insert. A metatarsal pad can prevent toe joint pain or a neuroma, painful swelling of a foot nerve. Make the length of the insert either three-quarter or the full-length of the shoe. Full-length is recommended for running, three-quarter length inserts can move and be uncomfortable.

-Running demands a lot of your feet, so focus on the fit and make sure your toes are not jammed or pinched. Remember shoes wear out, change your running shoes after about 400 miles. Invest in a well-fitting new pair.

-Have you taken a good look at peoples feet lately? Everybody’s feet, from the length to the width to the arch, are different. Running shoe brands are different too, some are made for wide feet and some are primarily made for narrow feet, so choose a pair of running shoes that feel comfortable and provide perfect support.

Before hitting the pavement or the trails, stretch.

-Loosen up your calf and thigh muscles, also known as a runners’ stretch. Stretch the hamstrings, which are often the site of runner’s injuries.

-To warm up, begin by walking and then move to a slow jog, build speed and intensity as you go. Stretching again after your run helps prevent soreness and tightening-up.

The running surface matters.

-Run on a surface that is softer than concrete or asphalt, like as a running track. Especially, if you have just starting running or are returning after a long break. The smooth, flat track surface will make it easier to avoid tripping over irregular surfaces, rocks or depressions that can cause injuries.

-Work slowly up to hills or trail running. Running up hills places added stress on the Achilles tendon, a commonly injured tendon in runners. Running downhill puts added pressure on the knees, hips and back.
Running tracks are better than a treadmills. Treadmills lead to repetitive stress injuries because most runners don’t vary their stride.

Remember to pace yourself.

-Begin your running sessions with a slow walk and progress to a slow jog before increasing your speed, especially in the beginning stages of training.

-Beginners and those getting back into running should definitely take a day off between runs, this allows muscles to rest, recover and heal. Especially true if you’re feeling soreness.

Watch your running technique.

-To avoid injury, have your feet land just beneath your hips and avoid over-striding.
Focus on your posture. Keep your shoulders back and your hands lightly cupped. Clenched fists causes tension in your shoulders and arms and creates an unbalanced stride.

-Hold your elbows close to your body at a 90-degree angle for the best upper body efficiency.

Prevent chafing and protect your tender areas.

-To prevent chafing, spread a thin layer of Vaseline or other lubricant on vulnerable areas. Chafing usually occurs around the bra line (women), nipples (men), inner thighs, and under the arms.

-For women, be sure you are wearing a good, synthetic sports bra with very smooth seams. Poorly-fitting sports bra leads to chafing.

By following these simple running tips, your program will stay on track and keep your burning up the miles and the calories. Good running!

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