How to avoid running injuries

When a patient turns up at my clinic, it’s usually because something has gone wrong. Many of the injuries I see are in fact preventable. So the best way to keep training and avoid running injuries this marathon season is to stick to some basic rules.

As marathon season approaches, runners are starting to train harder. Many have come out of their winter hibernation and begin to build their mileage, which is when I begin to see many common injuries at my clinic.

Research shows that 60% of running injuries are due to training errors. So by following some simple guidelines, you can reduce that risk.

Here are nine tips to keep you healthy and off the physio’s table.

1. Build your training plan sensibly

Spring is on its way. The days are getting longer. The temptation to just start blasting out the miles is there. But don’t try to do everything at once. There’s plenty of time to build your running programme to the big race, so use that time and give your body a chance to adapt to the new load.

As a rule, look to change one thing a week such as the frequency of running or intensity of your runs.


2. Don’t suddenly increase your weekly mileage

Following on, try to avoid sudden increases in mileage. You might be feeling great, but a 30% or more increase in your weekly mileage puts you at significant risk of an injury.

Take your time and instead progress gradually, aiming to increase your mileage around 10% a week.

3. Keep it interesting – vary your training

Running’s great! But constantly using the same set of muscles in a repetitive motion can lead to overuse injuries.

Mix things up. Don’t just run, do a strength training programme or take up a different sport that makes you use your body differently.

Top tip! Change up your scenery. Why not try mixing your road running with some trail and vice versa?

4. Missed a session in your marathon programme?

We’ve all done it, worked late one night. Struggled to get the kids to bed on time. Come down with a bit of a cold. Any one of a hundred things can knock out your routine, the key is not to try to and play catch up. 

If you’re following a plan, skipping a rest day or swapping a easy run for a hard run will just increase your risk of injury. Stick with your plan and follow your schedule.  

5. Remember to warm up and DOWN

There’s nothing better than lacing up and going straight out for a run. But if your job has you sitting at a desk for 9 hours a day, then take a little time to stretch, warm-up, and get your body ready to run.

And remember, after doing a hard training session afford yourself a few minutes to warm down, you’ve earned it.

6. Eat well – no one likes a hangry runner

It sounds simple, but as you train your energy needs will increase. And if you’re expending more energy than you consume this could leave you energy deficient, fatigued and at risk of injury.

Always refuel properly and make sure you are eating adequately for the energy you are burning. Ensure that your diet is filled with healthy, nutritious food to help your body repair and recover.

Almonds in a bowl

7. Give yourself sufficient rest and recovery

Our lives are busy. Working full time and having lots to do at home might not leave enough time for your body to recover. Be kind to yourself, listen to your body and rest if you need to.

8. Sleep

Studies how injury rates rise when your sleep drops below eight hours a night. To stay on top of those hard training sessions, aim to get as close to eight hours of zzzs to wake fresh and raring to go. 

9. And always listen to your body

Got a niggle? A spot of tightness? Coming down with a cold? Look out for the signs when your  body may be telling you that you need to ease off a little. And if things don’t improve, seek advice from a physiotherapist.