3 Ways to Avoid Running Injuries This Spring

I think that we all could feel the change in the air this week.  Maybe it is just the power of positive thinking, but Spring seems to finally be just around the corner.  The snow is melting, the sun is higher in the sky, it is lighter later, and the wind is not so cold (OK, it isn’t totally warm yet).  We have almost made it through the deep freeze and are on our way to warmer weather.

It is the time of year when many people who have been chained to their treadmills and elliptical machines all winter start thinking about running outdoors again. Here are a few of the top things I recommend that you consider before you head out for your first outdoor runs of the season:

1) Check out your sneakers – Make sure that you are jogging on a new pair of kicks.  Sneakers should be changed every 9-12 months to ensure enough cushion and support (depending on mileage).  Cushioning is not incredibly important when you are on an elliptical machine all winter.  An elliptical machine takes away much of the impact.  However, cushioning is very important when you are pounding the concrete for 3+ miles!

2)  Make sure to put a spring in your step – Jogging is really just controlled jumping from one foot to another.  If you haven’t been doing any plyometric exercises this winter, your muscles will not be quick enough to protect your joints from the impact of landing on pavement.  This is the time to start putting some dynamic jumping into your workout routine, if they are not already in place.  Start with simple squat jumps or box jumps.  Then you can switch to more challenging single leg jumps which more closely resemble jogging.

3) Slowly ramp up your mileage – It is very easy to ramp up your mileage too quickly when you transition from exercising predominately in the gym to getting outdoors.  Make sure to slowly ramp up your miles.  Shoot to increase your mileage by no more than about 10% each week. This will allow your muscles to slowly adapt to the needs of the run.  Let’s use the example that you are running 40 minutes on Monday and 60 min on Friday for a total of 100 min for week.  Make sure that you run no longer than 110 min the next week in order to decrease the risk of injury.

I have seen too many injuries in my clinic over the past few years that just a few simple training principals like the ones explained above could have prevented.  Remember that “a stitch in time saves nine.”  It is always much easier to avoid an injury in the first place, than to have to rehabilitate out of an injury.

If you start to feel a pain that you haven’t felt before, let someone know about it before it becomes a bigger issue.  Bring it up to one of your trainers, or a fellow runner.  Chances are that they have some ideas on what you can do to avoid further injury.  If you have had the issue for greater than 1-2 months, it might be time to talk to your MD and/or a physical therapist to see what can be done.

Enjoy your Spring!

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Diana grew up in a small suburb north of Boston. She received her clinical doctorate degree in Physical Therapy at Boston University in 2006. Diana started practicing as a physical therapist at Massachusetts General Hospital. While at MGH, she developed a specialty in the evaluation and treatment of complex lumbopelvic dysfunction. Diana is currently practicing at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston where she is the Orthopedic Clinical Supervisor of the Spine program. She is presently a Boston resident and her interests outside physical therapy include cooking, walking on the Esplanade, and international travel.

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