Running for Weight Loss: Six Injury Prevention Tips for Your Joints
Find a Decent Pair of Running shoes
Asics, New Balance and Saucony are the popular running shoe brands. Many marathon runners recommend Asics as the brand of choice. If you are flat footed or have high arches, keep in mind that you will need special shoes or inserts. Some factors to consider when choosing shoes include shoe comfort, proper fitting for your foot’s length and width, good protection from the sole, breathability and shoe weight (you don’t want shoes that are really heavy). Remember, you get what you pay for. If you drop $20 on a pair of running shoes, they will not last very long and you will find your joints aching frequently. Shoes that you will be running and jumping around in are one thing to invest in. Go to a store that specializes in athletic shoes, get fitted and plan on spending $60 to $100.
Stretching is the last thing that people want to do during their workout but hard running and exercise will tighten up your joints and muscles leaving you prone to injury. One way to remedy this is by stretching to avoid tightness. One of the more important areas to stretch is the IT band, which is an extension of the muscles in the upper outer hip that extends down through the knee. Much of knee pain in running can be caused by injury to the IT band and can be prevented by stretching and foam rolling. The lower back and hamstrings (back of the upper leg) also need to be stretched after workouts since these areas are compressed by supporting your body during high impact exercise. Incorporate a total body stretching routine after workouts and on off days.
Strengthen Muscles Equally
Muscular Imbalance is another leading cause of running injuries. A muscular imbalance is defined as one muscle being disproportionately stronger or weaker than its counterpart muscle. Think of the abdominal muscles in your stomach. If you work them out quite frequently, but avoid doing lower back exercises, then you have a muscular imbalance. Muscular imbalances exist in muscles that are on opposite sides such as the quadriceps and hamstring located at the front and back of the leg. When you have a muscle in the front that is weaker than a muscle in the back, the joints in the middle suffer. Usually a joint is supported by the muscles, but if it is being pulled tighter in one direction, it is under a lot of stress. A left leg that is stronger than the right leg is also a muscular imbalance leaving one side of the body to overcompensate. A way to avoid these imbalances is by strength training all body parts equally.
Build up gradually
The big cause of running injuries that is often overlooked is doing too much too soon. An individual that goes from running five miles in one week to attempting 20 miles in the next is greatly increasing the risk for an overuse injury. It is recommended that you increase your running distance or time no more than 20% each week. That means that if a total of 5 miles were completed in week 1, then 6 miles is a good number for week 2. It is much better to take your time getting to a 20 mile week, rather than rushing to get there and suffering an injury that takes you out of exercise for six to 12 weeks as a result.
Rest and recover
After a hard workout, your body needs rest. When your body is at rest, the recovery process begins, which involves the strengthening of bones, joints and muscles, as well as the refilling of your energy tank. Giving your body the fuel that it needs through proper nutrition is also a vital part of the recovery process. When timed correctly, rest and recovery will increase your exercise performance and healthy lifestyle in general. However, if joints still feel achy after a rest day, skip running by cross training. Go for a bike ride or a swim giving your knees and ankles longer time to heal from the high joint impact of running. Low impact exercises like the elliptical are a good way to stimulate your cardiovascular system without putting additional stress on recovering joints.
Warm up first, especially in colder weather
Some people like to roll right out of bed and immediately go outside to run. The problem with this is that after a night of sleeping, your body slows itself down. Cold weather will amplify the slowing of your body’s functions. To work around this, gradually get your body ready for exercise with a 5-15 minute warm up. Harder running requires a large range of motion from the muscles. To reach this level of performance, your muscles need to be warm and loose. Warm up by doing basic movements like leg swings, arm circles and breathing exercises. The goal is to gradually increase the heart rate and the heat in the body. I like to do this by starting with a moderate walking pace, gradually increase my speed into a jog and finally move into my running pace. Remember, your warm-up should be of low intensity in relation to your exercise levels. If your workout pace is a jog or speed walk, then gradually work up to that. A warm up should be included with your workout regardless of the time of day, so always give yourself at least a couple of minutes.
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