Getting up and going for your run first thing in the morning, is an excellent way to start out the day. Not only can it help you to wake up, running first thing may help you to avoid skipping workouts. How? After a long day spent at work or with the kids, that run may start to look like a marathon. Checking it off your list before anything else, is a good strategy for remaining consistent in your workouts.
Yet, you may be searching for ways to prevent injuries during your sessions – especially if you’ve suffered from these in the past. Following a rigorous training schedule can often lead to issues, and any steps you can take to make your runs safer is a wise choice. So, to help you learn smart strategies for doing so, lets cover 5 straightforward (but effective) tips to make your morning run easier and injury free.
Tip #1: Replace Your Shoes Often.
Your shoes are an essential part of your running regimen, as they provide vital support and cushioning. Waiting too long to buy a new pair is a common mistake, and this can leave you more prone to injuries. When should you replace them? On average, a running shoe is good for between 700 to 900 km, if they are used only for running. If you wear them around the house, while doing errands, yard work or even to the office, they will wear out even more quickly (1).
Tip #2: Vary Your Intensity.
Pushing yourself to the limit each and every run, is actually a poor technique for making progress. You won’t give your body adequate time to recover, and this may lead to strains of your muscles or ligaments. In addition, relentlessly taxing yourself in every session, can cause you to fatigue your mental fortitude as well – making it harder to get up and go on your morning runs (2). What is the solution?
Instead, you can either choose to have a more leisurely pace every run, or if you feel that you must push yourself harder, then vary your intensity. After a particularly grueling run, where you went farther or faster, then have a more gentle run for a day or two afterwards. This will give your body and mind a chance to recovery, and will make your long-term success more likely.
Tip #3: Follow the 3 S’s.
One of the best ways to avoid injuries, is to always follow the 3 S’s – which are stretching, strengthening and supporting (3). Stretching can be particularly helpful when it comes to preventing the most common running injuries, which include achilles tendon issues, heel pain (plantar fascitis), iliotibial band syndrome (pain in the outer portion of the knee) and shin splints (4).
Strengthening is also important, since all of your muscle groups work together to provide stability and to create the proper motion. If you’re having issues, a weak muscle group may be to blame. Core strength is especially important for correct running form, as your gluteals and transversus abdominis work together to provide a stable center (5). You may want to add a strengthening regimen to your workout schedule (in addition to your runs), to focus upon these muscles.
Support braces or taping secures the joints in place alleviating pain and reducing chance of injury. They can also be worn after injury during rehabilitation to provide circulation for faster recovery.
Tip #4: Make Adjustments Quickly.
Running uses many of the muscles, ligaments and tendons in your body. While this is good news as far as staying in shape, it is important that you are aware of your body. Why? A small discomfort or pain can lead to a major injury, if you don’t address it when it first develops. For example, if your hamstring has been feeling a little tight and this progresses to minor pain, your body is sending you a signal. Be mindful of these messages, and provide proper rest or a lighter training schedule if necessary (6).
Tip #5: Be Sure to Stretch.
There is actually some discussion among experts, whether pre-workout stretching is beneficial, though you may still want to do so. What they do agree upon, is that you should give your muscles a chance to slowly warm up – so spend the first few minutes of your run at a slow pace. Also, when your run is finished, do a post-workout stretch, as some experts believe this to be the most effective strategy (7).
What stretches are best? Four different stretches can help you cover all of your bases, and avoid injuries during your runs. The first is the calf stretch, which can help prevent both calf pulls and shin pain. Put your foot at a 45 degree angle against a wall and slowly lean in until you feel the stretch in your calf, holding for 15 seconds each time (8).
The second is the Iliotibial band stretch (for lateral knee pain), which involves crossing one leg behind the other. Place your hands on your hips and lean to the side, being sure to keep your back foot firmly planted (9).
Third, the classic quadriceps stretch is essential and easy to do. Just lift one leg up, then reach back and grab your foot with one hand. Gently pull your foot towards your buttocks until you feel the stretch in your quad, hold for between 15-30 seconds and then repeat up to three times (10).
Finally, lunges are an excellent all-around stretch, which will particularly target your hip’s range of motion and your hamstring. Kneel down and then place one foot out in front of you. While maintaining a straight back, push forward until you feel the stretch in your hip. If you prefer, you can also perform a standing lunge instead, with the same basic form (11).
These simple stretches can help to prevent injuries, which could keep you sidelined and derail your training routine. Be sure to do them every morning – to ensure that your run is both pain and injury free.