No More Painful Runs: Top 10 Strategies to Prevent Running Injuries For Parents

Collaborative post. Running is a fantastic way to stay fit, improve cardiovascular health, and clear your mind. As a parent it can give you the mental space to manage the day’s challenges and give you the energy to keep up with your little ones on a day out. However, it's not uncommon for runners to suffer from injuries that can frustratingly lead to time out from running and make day to day life more painful. From shin splints to stress fractures, these ailments can be painful and frustrating. Fortunately, there are proactive steps you can take to prevent running injuries and keep yourself on the path towards reaching your fitness goals. This post explores 10 effective ways you can avoid running injuries and ensure a smooth and enjoyable running experience.

A group of people warming up for a run
If you are new to running these tips will help prevent injuries

How To Start Running Without Injuries 

1. Warm-up and Cool Down

When time is short you might be tempted to just get going, but make sure you give your body a chance to warm up, especially if going out early in the morning. Not only will taking time to warm up and cool down help prevent injuries, but it can help you run faster and reduce aching muscles. Always start your runs with a dynamic warm-up routine consisting of light jogging and stretching exercises for major muscle groups (think back to those exercises they made you do in PE at school). Similarly end each run with a cool down session involving static stretches to promote flexibility and reduce muscle soreness.

2. Footwear and Equipment 

It’s not unusual as a parent to buy your child several new pairs of shoes a year, but for you to be wearing a pair of shoes you have owned since before they were born. When it comes to running though you really need to see trainers as a key part of the kit. Good quality running shoes will support your feet in the right places making your run more comfortable and preventing injuries.

Some people will find one or both feet need more specialist support than good trainers alone provide. If you have foot pain when you run eg pain in the ball of your foot then metatarsalgia insoles can be added to your normal shoes or trainers for orthotic foot pain relief. If your pronation is less pronounced then it is worth going to a specialist running shops to have gait analysis which looks at how you run and the best shoes to support you. This might feel like a big investment if you are just aiming to do the occasional parkrun, but you’ll be surprised the difference it makes.

You should also be aiming to replace your trainers regularly because as they start to wear out your chance of injury increases. How long your trainers last will depend on the distances you cover and the surfaces you run on, but look at replacing them after running 500km to 800km (that’s about once a year if you run 5km 3 times a week).

If you are female the other key item you need to buy when running is a good running bra. The correct support will not only make running more comfortable during the run, but it can prevent back and neck pain.

3. Gradual Progression

Avoid pushing yourself too hard too soon. Gradually increase your mileage or intensity level by no more than 10% per week to allow your body enough time to adapt and minimise the risk of overuse injuries. Couch to 5K programmes are a really good way to start running and if you have had an extended break maybe due to school holidays or an injury, you need to follow a similar plan to get you back up to form. As you get older, if you have health conditions or if you are starting to run in the first few years after having a baby, progressing gradually is even more important. You might think you have the fitness to make a big step up, but your joints might tell you otherwise.

There are a few different ways to progress your runs: going faster, going further or running for longer. Generally the best way to improve your running is through intervals as used in Couch to 5k and other training programmes eg 1 minute walking, 1 minute running. In each run ideally you want to focus on improving one area so for instance if you are increasing the duration of your running interval you ideally don’t want to also increase how long your overall run time in the same run. Alternatively if you are focused on speed in that run aim to cover the same distance as normal.

4. Rest Days 

Rest days give your muscles a chance to recover and actually allow you to progress faster. The harder you are pushing your body the more important it is to give those muscles and joints some time out.

5. Cross-Training Activities

A rest day doesn’t mean you get to spend the day in bed (which isn’t an option as a parent anyway). They are a great opportunity to do some low impact activities, many of which you can get your family involved in too. Good options include going swimming or on a family bike ride.

Stretching leg muscles after a run
Remembering basics like warming up and cooling down can prevent injuries when running

6. Strength and Flexibility Training

Incorporating strength and flexibility training exercises into your routine at least twice a week can help make you a stronger runner and prevent injuries. Focusing on core stability exercises along with strengthening hip muscles will enhance balance and improve running form while reducing the strain on joints. As well as your regular stretching exercises consider yoga or pilates to increase flexibility and improve range of motion. Supple muscles and joints are less prone to injuries during running.

7.  Listen to Your Body

Listening to your body is an important lesson when you are exercising. If you feel a twinge in your knee or ankle slow down rather than trying to push through. More often than not a small twinge will turn into a big pain if you don’t take notice and adapt. This also means that when you are feeling strong and comfortable it’s time to push yourself more.

8. Nutrition and Hydration

Aim to maintain a well-balanced diet rich in nutrients that support bone health and muscle recovery. If you find your dinner consists of left over chicken nuggets and chips maybe consider supplements like collagen or a protein shake. Remember to stay adequately hydrated before, during, and after your runs to prevent cramps and fatigue. Water makes a huge difference to your performance, but if you are only running for short periods you can probably leave the water bottle at home if you are well hydrated before you go out.

9. Running Form 

Did you know there is a right way to run? Technique and positioning becomes more important the longer you run for or if you are competitively sprinting, but it’s not just about going faster, it can help prevent injuries too. Aim to stay upright (ie not leaning forwards with your neck bent down), land on the front or mid foot rather than heel first and swing your arms as it really will make you run faster.

10. Seek Professional Help Where Necessary

Whether it’s a persistent pain, or you have a progression barrier you can’t break through recognise that there are times you need to call in the experts. See a physiotherapist, a Qualified Personal Trainer or a 1:1 running coach to help you meet your running goals without pain or injury.

Implementing these strategies can greatly help in preventing running injuries. It is crucial to remember that while running offers numerous physical and mental health benefits, looking after yourself should always be a top priority. So lace up those shoes with confidence knowing that you have taken the necessary steps to protect yourself from running injuries.

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