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Avoid running injuries

Having spent several years as medical director for the A1A marathon and being a marathon runner myself, I’ve seen and experienced a lot of running injuries and experienced many over the past decade.  From blisters to plantar fasciitis to runners knee, and even shin splints, I’ve seen and had my share of running related injuries.  Working at and directing the medical team at a marathon finish line tent at several marathons and half marathons has provided me with unique opportunities to treat lots of running related injuries.  From fall related abrasions to ankle sprains to life threatening heat stroke, I’ve seen pretty much the running injury spectrum.   Helping runners return to running and get back to training for those important events and competing is very satisfying as a physician to be part of.

With the days around Portland, Oregon getting longer, warmer, and it raining less, this is the perfect time to lace up those running shoes and get out there for a morning or evening run.  If, like me, you’ve been grinding along running indoors during the winter or braving the dark and slippery roads, springtime and longer days are a welcome sight.   With more running and mileage, comes the need for planning our training and allowing adequate recovery in order to  help our bodies build that aerobic engine and avoid the risk of overuse injuries like tendon injuries and stress fractures. 

One of the most important initial steps to maximize running enjoyment and reduce injury is making sure you have running shoes that are still fit for running and supporting you during training.  Just because those running shoes still look good and have some tread doesn’t mean they still have enough miles left to safely get you through the season.  I commonly see running injuries related to use of running shoes that should’ve been retired months if not years ago.  Not to mention that many individuals run in the wrong shoe for their foot type or running style.  These footwear related training errors can contribute to stress fractures, heel pain, even Iliotibial band syndrome. 

Another important consideration when running is keeping track of weekly running mileage and trying to avoid significant increases in weekly running mileage.  Many of us who run can sometimes be impatient and/or time crunched and try adding mileage too quickly.  Ramping up mileage too quickly can increase the risk of injuries like shin splints and runner’s knee and probably represents the second most important risk factor for running related injuries.  Whether training for a 5K or a marathon, good training programs exist online and most carefully ramp up the running volume no more than 10-15% per week.  I commonly coach my runners on setting appropriate running mileage goals to ensure safe return to full activity after an injury.  This is essential to enjoying running, staying on track for an event, and avoiding injury.

A third factor in running injuries is running too many days per week.  I see many runners who run 6-7 days a week.  It’s important to realize that elite, professional runners don’t run 7 days per week. Most elite runners mix their running volume with cross training such as strength training, core strengthening, flexibility exercises, and recovery.  Recovery includes plenty of rest and proper nutrition as many runners run on a negative energy balance.  This calorie deficit can also increase the risk of overuse injuries. 

If you are a runner experiencing pain during or after a run and are concerned about how to get back to running safely and stay on target for your running goals, at Sports Health Northwest, we are here to help.  Connect with us today so we can provide you with an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan to get you back to running faster and better than ever.

Dr Westerdahl David Westerdahl MD FAAFP RMSK Sports Medicine Physician and owner Sports Health Northwest, Inc.

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