How to Prevent Common Running Injuries

It’s been a weird year for my relationship with running. Outside of the occasional virtual race, running races were not really a thing this past year – but admittedly, I have not pushed myself on the racing front for about five years now. But in some ways, races or no races, running has become a more important part of my life than ever – it serves as my temporary escape from the home I now find myself in 90 percent of my days, my therapy on tough days, my reason to get outside, and frankly, something to do to fill the void of time that I often find myself hanging out with a lot lately.

As the weather starts to hit the 50s more consistently (note: don’t get too excited, third winter is still coming), I find myself lacing up my running shoes more often again, and I know I’m not alone. But as I gear up for another spring and summer of mileage, it’s important to keep injury prevention in mind.

As part of my experience getting new running shoes and insoles from Fleet Feet a few weeks back, I connected with Dr. Nadrine Omar. Dr. Omar works as a chiropractor at Aligned Modern Health, and as a runner herself, she relates to her primary patients with a heavy empathy.

“I’m so injury prone,” Dr. Omar laments, “I know every injury under the sun at this point, how it happens, and how to help prevent it. I’ve had a lot of experience having to rehab and prevent most of these injuries on myself over the years.”

While running brings us so many things, it often comes along with potential injuries. Given the repeated motion of “right, left, repeat”, often on tough concrete – running is an intense sport, even if you don’t consider yourself an intense runner.

So, what should we keep in mind as the temperature rises and miles start adding up this spring? Dr. Omar has a few pro tips for how to prevent common running injuries.

how to prevent common running injuries

How to prevent common running injuries

1. Listen to your body.

You’ve likely heard this one before, and there’s a reason for it, but it’s easier said than done! Dr. Omar reminds us, “while schedules and training plans are important, listening to your body is the number one thing you can do to avoid injury.”

If you find yourself using the mantra “no pain, no gain” or stressing out about getting miles in despite how you feel, that might be a cue to take a step back and listen up. If you do feel pain, make note of it. On following runs, compare notes: is the pain going away? Is it getting worse?

2. Do the prep work.

Before heading out the door, put in at least a few minutes to prep your body – particularly, activate your glutes and core and do some dynamic stretching to warm up your legs. It is easy to want to get started on the run cold, but taking the time to warm-up can spare you some heartache (er, body ache?) down the road.

3. Get the right gear.

Here’s where running experts at specialty stores like Fleet Feet come in. As Dr. Omar explains, “if your shoe is making you do something wrong, it’s a recipe for disaster. A huge change that helped me personally was finding the right shoes for my arches.”

Dr. Omar is also a fan of insoles, stating, “customized orthotics are the foundation for running to help with hitting the pavement and transferring motion, power and activation to every joint in your body.”

Jay at Fleet Feet Lakeview helping me get new insoles a few weeks back

4. Don’t underestimate the power of rest.

Listen up, night owls – this one’s for you. As you up your miles, make sure you are upping your zzz’s (or at least shooting for a decent amount of shut-eye every night). On days when your body is not feeling it (see point #1), it is okay to take a nap instead of running that 3-miler.

5. Don’t skip out on hydration and nutrition.

“There’s a balance with hydration, sleeping, eating the right things,” Dr. Omar says, “Keeping up protein, fats and carbs can be a struggle, but it’s important to keep in mind.” While nutrition needs are different for everybody, general food with exercise guidelines can be a good place for most people to start. And, with gigantic water bottles on-trend these days, it’s never been easier to keep the hydration flowing. How much hydration is enough or too much? Check out our post on the science behind hydration here.

As we gear up for another weird spring and summer, the last thing anyone wants to happen is an injury. If you keep these five rules in mind, you’ll be in good shape to prevent common running injuries as you build up your mileage this year. 

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About Cass Gunderson

Cass hails from the southwest suburbs as a proud White Sox fan and a graduate of University of Illinois. By day, Cass is a full-time student at the University of Chicago's Booth Graduate Business School. Before deciding to throw away all her money to go back to school, Cass worked for a private equity firm that buys technology companies. Raised as the youngest in a family of older brothers, Cass grew up a tomboy and remains active in sports. To her mother’s satisfaction, Cass learned how to embrace her feminine side in college and has developed an interest for fitness activities that require spandex as opposed to knee-length basketball shorts. In her spare time, she runs a lot because it is cheaper than paying for real therapy. Cass has completed four marathons and one ultramarathon (she claims she'll never do this to herself again, but that's TBD). She can still be found on the basketball courts in Lincoln Park wearing knee-length basketball shorts.