Four Tips to Staying Injury-Free at All Ages

By Matthew Simmons
Northside Hospital Cherokee Sports Medicine Program

Whether you are learning to jog a mile, are in the middle of summer conditioning, or training to shave off seconds of a cross country race — aches and pain can result and sometimes even cause injury. Just because you’re young, doesn’t mean you’re not prone to injuries. Here are tips to avoid hurting yourself in the long run.

Should you warm up and stretch before and after running?

The debate is whether there’s value in warming up before running and about stretching before or after running. A proper warm-up and stretching pre-workout and cool down post-workout is the best way to avoid a pesky pull. Stretching after running can be beneficial because it increases flexibility and reduces soreness. The consensus from most experienced runners is to warm up before running and cool down for a few minutes after the run and then stretch again. This can help avoid injuries.

What’s the best way to increase speed and mileage?

Running is going great. Why not push to go the extra mile a little bit faster? Going too fast, too soon will be too much and can ultimately burn you out physically and mentally. Running can quickly go from something you love to a chore. This increases risk for injuring yourself because your muscles and tendons are being pushed too hard to handle the stress of training. Follow the 10 percent rule that says to never increase weekly mileage more than 10 percent. And never try to increase speed and mileage at the same time, instead, try mixing running and walking until the body adapts.

How to train properly?

Setting goals is what keeps us motivated, but pushing to reach those goals before our body and mind can handle means it’s time to cut back. Overtraining signs include reduced concentration, sleep disturbance, increased fatigue, pain at rest and with daily activities, delayed recovery and decreased performance. It’s wise to use a training diary or app to determine a healthier level of training.

How can I get the most out of my shoes?

To help protect yourself from injury and extend the life of your shoes, buy a new pair and alternate wearing them and your current pair. Alternating shoes lets you be more aware of your old ones becoming too flexible or losing their cushioning. It also lets the shoes dry out and decompress between uses. Although shoes can last longer or wear out faster depending on the surface, the general rule of thumb is to replace running shoes every 300-500 miles depending on the type of running shoe.