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If you’re like many runners we see here at Fire & Earth, you may be clocking up many miles while you train or take part in events. The repetitive impact of all those foot strikes can take a toll on your muscles, joints, and connective tissue. Whether or not you’re training for a specific event you don’t want an injury that means you have to stop your training. 
 
Your best performance will come from not only putting in plenty of hard work, but also listening to your body and scheduling rest and relaxation. So, as well as making sure you have the right running kit and training plan, you also need to consider your nutrition, hydration, sleep, and muscle care to reduce injury, and maximise your performance. 
 
Here are 9 top tips to help you stay injury free whilst training.. 
 

Make sure you have the right kit 

Make sure you wear the correct running shoes for your gait and the surface you run on. Worn-out shoes can often make pain in the ankles, knees, and hips worse. Your shoes have a road life which relates to the miles you wear them. A good rule of thumb is to buy new shoes every 300 to 500 miles you run, but this will vary from person to person. If you can, having two pairs of running trainers is a good idea. You could have one pair you use for longer runs and one lighter pair for faster runs. This is handy when you’ve been running in the mud or rain, so you always have a clean dry pair. Any good running shoe shop will analyse your gait and help you to find the right fit, so ask for advice. And while you’re there, remember to make sure you have a supportive sports bra if you need one. Always test out your running gear before an event rather than running in a new kit. 

Use a training plan - and start slowly 

Download a training plan that’s been designed specifically for the distance you’ll be looking to cover. The Couch to 5K app is a fantastic starting point and has a number of celebrities who can cheer you on in your ears. This will keep you focused and give you a good idea about the duration of runs and the distances you should cover each week to hit your goal. You can then progress to 10k, half marathon, and even marathons if you’re feeling confident. 
 
If a training plan isn’t working for you, adapt or change it, but make sure you don’t increase your running distance too far too quickly. This will cause your body to be fatigued which can increase the risk of injury and mental burnout. Running coaches refer to the 10% rule - this is where you add 10% to your mileage each week. It might sound small, but a consistent increase will add up quickly, but at the same time, help to protect you from injury 

Warm up and cool down thoroughly 

This is essential to prevent muscle and ligament damage, so don’t forget! Start off your run by warming up with walking or moving, and always finish with walking for around 5/10 minutes and then stretching while your muscles are still warm. This transition lets your heart rate slow back down at a sensible pace. Stretching after you run will make sure you don’t feel it so much the next day! 

Remember to rest 

Rest days are as important as training. You’re more injury-prone when fatigued, so if you carry out another hard workout too soon you won’t make any progress and you could undo what you have achieved. At Fire & Earth we see a lot of injuries caused by over training – don’t be one of them! Muscles need 48 hours to recover between workouts, so the day after a long run should be a rest day – or you could do a short recovery run, or an alternative workout, such as swimming, spinning, yoga, or Pilates. As well as this, do get some quality sleep in, as this can help you both physically and mentally. 

Hydration and nutrition 

If you’re a runner you probably know the importance of hydration and nutrition, because you care about your body and fitness. So you won’t be that surprised to read our advice here, which is the classic: eat fresh fruit and veg, quality protein (chicken, fish, lean meat, and beans) and wholegrain carbs (bread, rice, pasta). We’re sure you’re aware that there are plenty of reasons to ditch junk food, processed food, and alcohol. 
Before you run make sure you have the right energy levels by choosing a snack like a banana with nut butter, small yoghurt and fruit, oats, or an energy/protein bar. 

Mix it up  

One thing some runners overlook is cross-training. This helps with your stamina, core strength, flexibility, and overall fitness. Plus it’s fun to do something different! We love activities such as circuits, spinning, swimming, and exercise groups. Things like yoga and pilates can also help with your flexibility and mental focus. You may want to include some strength training to help you protect the areas most prone to injury. For example, if you struggle with your knees, consider some knee strengthening exercises and also look to work on your hips, quads, and calf muscles. Your Fire & Earth therapist can help with exercise ideas. 
 
You could also try running on different surfaces (road, grass, track) to build strength and stability, but also be aware if you normally only train on a treadmill then the impact of road running will feel very different so take it easy while you adjust. 

Love your foam roller 

Many runners are guilty of neglecting a proper stretching routine, when in fact it’s probably one of the best ways to enjoy more injury free running. Use a foam roller to loosen tight muscles and promote flexibility. If you’re new to foam rolling, we recommend you start with one that’s smooth, then go onto one with the nobbly bits on it as that’s a bit more painful but works wonders! 

Listen to your body 

Don’t carry on running when you have pain or fatigue. If something starts to hurt then stop what you’re doing, because carrying on could make it worse. Rest, ice, use compression and elevate the injured body part. If pain persists, consult a doctor or a sports therapist. If you’re over 50 and a runner, you can read some specific advice for you here. 
 
Although runners do have a high rate of injury, if you follow the advice above you should be able to keep yourself fit and healthy. If you have any questions, please ask us. And remember, the more quickly you treat your injury, the more quickly you’ll be able to get rid of it – hopefully for good. 
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