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5 Proven Methods to Prevent Injury and Improve Performance in Runners

There is typically a link between performance and injuries in sports and athletics, especially in the case of runners. In this post we are going to go over 5 ways that you can not only prevent injury but also boost your performance so that you reach your goals when it comes to running, whether it is finishing a race or beating a certain time.

1) Proper Warm up and cool down/recovery

A dynamic warm up is essential to prime your nervous system and body for the activity and stress that you are about to put it through. The warm up should consist of similar movements and dynamic stretching of the muscles and body parts that you will be using. For runners this can include lunging, squatting, hopping, light jogging and a number of other movements.

A cool down should be used to help bring down the heart rate and allow the body to relax. Static stretching can be used here with holds of 30-60 seconds as needed to improve flexibility and decrease the amount of muscular soreness that you may experience later. Recovery also includes what you do the hours and days after exercise. Making sure your body is getting the rest and recovery it needs is important for preparing for the next exercise routine you will be doing along with improving performance as you prepare for an event.

2) Have a running plan

Runners should have a running plan in place that looks at total miles for the week and breaks up the runs to focus on speed, distance and endurance. In order to meet your goals a specific plan is necessary to help with both performance and avoid injury. Without a plan in place, runners can put themselves at increased risk for overuse injuries such as IT Band pain, runner's knee, Achilles injuries, hip pain, plantar fasciitis and other injuries that are common in runners. Running plans should be different when training for different races. For instance, someone training for a marathon is not going to have the same running plan as someone training for a 5k. While both races, a marathon and 5k, involve running, the training is very different.

3) Cross train!!

I preach this to all my patients that are runners! Cross training is extremely important to strengthen areas such as the pelvis, core, and legs that are important for running with good form and allow for proper running mechanics. Cross training activities can include strength/resistance training, yoga, pilates, CrossFit and others.

4) Get the right shoes

Every person's body is different and having a good shoe is extremely important to protect your feet and joints with running. The shoe should be comfortable and easy to wear. Proper shoes and footwear can vary from person to person. This is not an area you want to necessarily be cheap on. If there is a deal on a shoe that works for you then great. But base the shoe on how it feels on your foot and not the cost or look of the shoe. Go to a running store and have a specialist help you pick a shoe or go to your physical therapist for more advice on picking out the right shoes and footwear.

5) Nutrition and hydration

The food you put in your body should be viewed as fuel that your body needs in order to perform at its best. Make sure you are getting a good amount of carbs, fat and protein so that your body is ready to take on those runs and is not depleted of energy. Staying hydrated is extremely important to avoid dehydration and heat stroke (especially in the summer). Make sure you are drinking enough water throughout the day and observe the color of your urine to make sure you are getting an adequate amount of water. Your urine should be a light yellow. Darker urine is a sign that you are not getting enough water!

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