Injury Prevention: Six Things to Consider Before You Start Running

Don't let this happen to you

I spent my college years walking from one building to another to attend classes.  I was one of those university kids who didn’t have a car, so I really had no choice.  For  several years, I  spent 15 minutes in between classes walking from one building to another.   I needed to walk to go to the library. Then walk back  to another building for my electives. And walk back to the main building for lunch. And back to the library.  And now that I’m working, I also have to walk from my work place to the train station.

I am not much of a runner, but I know I could endure long walks with minimal interruption. I could do occasional trekking  and mountain climbing, not to mention the very long walks I willingly submit myself to when I go shopping. That  and  when I have the time, I do yoga stretches at home.

Don't let this happen to you.

I know I’m fit.  Or so I thought.

I was doing my usual chores at home when I experienced a tightening sensation in my left  leg.  I needed to sit down, stretched and massage my leg for a few minutes before the sensation subsided. After a few minutes, knee pain would kick in.  I needed to  stretch my leg again. Have it suspended it in mid-air. The sensation would subside for a few minutes, but I’d  feel my leg cramping and tightening again after a few minutes of movement.  Being the hypochondriac that I am, I went to  the hospital to ask for a prescription of a drug that I usually  take for potassium deficiency.

It didn’t feel weird when I was advised to see an orthopedist. What got me surprised  was  when I was told that I might be suffering from a strained hamstring.  All I could say  is “I’m sorry, what?”

And the doctor asked.  “Do you run once a week?”  “No. Maybe, once in 2 weeks?,” I said.  He winced.

“Your last run was on a track and field?” “No.”

“Do you run in the same area?”  “No. I sometimes go to a track and field  but last time I ran  was at the university.”

“Were you running on pavement?” “Yes.”

“Were you wearing shoes made for running?” “Yes.” 

“Did you do some stretching exercises before you ran?” “A little.”

“You got injured because of your wrong practices.” Before I could wail in protest, he  stopped  me and  explained. Ten minutes after, I was out of the door , on my way to the X-ray department.

If you’re experiencing that pins and needle sensation in your calves and shins, or you’re panting and gasping for air after every lap when you’re running or if you just want to be fit and want do it the right way (believe me, you’ll want to) then read this, or risk yourself to  injury.

1. Eat right. Any physical activity requires energy to burn, so if you’re gonna burn it, better make sure  that you’ve got lots of it. Bulk up on  carbohydrates and protein-rich foods. Include pasta, rice and potatoes in your diet.

2. Choose your running space. It is recommended to start running on a track and field. Since your feet are new to the strain of running, tracks offer a forgiving surface since they are made from shock absorbing materials designed to minimize repetitive injury. Track surfaces are normally smooth and  have minimal obstacles that may cause foot injury. Tracks also have markers that will allow you to monitor your  progress; your pace, the distance and the time you’ve run.

3. Choose the right running shoes. You don’t need to have expensive running shoes to run properly. You have to determine  what type of  feet you have to know what type of running shoes you have to buy.

A pair of ASICS stability running shoes, model...
Better ensure that you're investing on a good one.

If you’re flat-footed, you need to look for shoes that will maintain stability because your feet will roll inward when you run. When shopping for running shoes,  check if the  shoes would provide “motion control” and “stability”. Some flat-footed runners also use custom-made shoe inserts designed to correct  such  foot conditions.

If you see a high and definite arch on your foot,  then your feet will roll outwards  when you ran. When you run, your foot’s arch will eventually fall  and will tend to make your feet longer,so look for running shoes that would be flexible  and would cushion your foot.

If your feet does not look flat-footed and the arch is less than three-quarters of an inch, your foot type is neutral. This type is  the least susceptible to injury as long as you’ve got the proper footwear. Choose the  type of running shoes suited for neutral runners.  Don’t get the type that would provide a lot of motion control or stability.

Use socks that are not too thin and not too thick to properly cushion and at the same time , will not  restrict your feet when you  walk, jog or run.

3. Warm up. Do a warm-up walk, then jog for about 5 minutes. This will raise your heart rate which will gradually speed up once you start running. Then start stretching. Stretching will lengthen and strengthen your muscles. Stretch your arms , legs and side body.

Stretch your hamstring by standing up straight, with both knees slightly bent. Then bend down, towards the floor , at your hip-joint and reach for your toes.  Reach as far to your toes until you feel  the muscles at the back of your thigh stretching. Hold this pose for 30 seconds and repeat two or three times.

Ensure that you warm up your entire body, not just specific parts. Making any intense move without warming might cause injury to your muscles and tendons.

4. Be progressive.  Walk first. Then jog. Gradually increase your speed. If you’re running on a hilly place, ensure that you start  on the slopes before running on the steeper parts. Don’t  train too hard too soon as  you’ll expose  to injuries or fatigue. Make a record of your  speed  and the distance  you have covered  to  monitor your  performance.

5. Hydrate. Since running will make you perspire, you need to replenish your lost fluids by drinking water before,in between laps and after running. When you sweat, you’re losing electrolytes so you may also drink  sports drinks but water will do just fine.

6. Cool down.  Just  as you gradually increased your heart rate before running,   you also need to lower it down after exercising. Don’t sit down after running. Walk or jog for another five to 10 minutes  and  do another round of stretching. This will ensure that  your blood will flow properly and will maintain a steady circulation. Take deep breaths to ensure that you’re getting enough supply of oxygen.

 Enjoy your run without the injuries!


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