Banner Health Services  

How runners can avoid injuries

Dr. Pazik  
Tom Pazik, MD, is a board certified orthopedic surgeon with subspecialty certification in sports medicine. He practices with Banner Mountain Vista Orthopaedics in Greeley, Colo.

Question: What can I do to avoid some of the injuries that I hear about frequently in my circle of running friends?

Running has become more popular in the past few decades. It used to be a sport for teens and the 20- or 30-somethings. Today, line up for any given race, and you will run with (and be passed by) people in their 40s, 50s, 60s and older.

For the most part, running is a healthy activity that is not detrimental to participants. In the absence of other injuries or problems with their alignment, running can bring health benefits such as cardiovascular health, weight control, better muscle and bone health, mental relaxation and social engagement. Problems can occur when runners over train.  Every person has a unique conditioning threshold that describes how much he or she can do without risking problems such as diminished performance or injury. Overtraining occurs when athletes exercise beyond their body’s capacity. When you cross that threshold, performance drops off and you risk injury.

Cross training activities such as cycling, weight training, elliptical workouts, and swimming provide health benefits that can help runners to stay fit, avoid injury, and even keep them running longer. These activities promote fitness while giving runners a break from the impact of running. New types of cross training activities have evolved over the past 20 years, and now runners increasingly recognize the value of cross training. To help prevent injuries runners should consider cross training, stretch properly, warm up and cool down, maintain general conditioning, eat a healthy balanced diet, and keep weight under control.

If you are overweight, approach exercise and running with caution. Prior to beginning an exercise program, you should undergo a complete medical evaluation by your family physician.  Extra pounds magnify the stress placed on the body by the impact of running.  Rather than beginning a conditioning program with jogging, overweight individuals should consider other nonimpact exercises such as water exercises, stationary cycling, or elliptical machines.  Upon achieving weight reduction through dietary improvements and nonimpact exercises, then you can slowly add jogging to your routine.

When people do suffer overuse injuries, they can frequently stay active with relative rest and cross training. Often, they can continue to run at a reduced level where they no longer have symptoms while cross training to maintain conditioning. They can slowly return to their running routine as symptoms abate.

People need to listen to their bodies and respect the messages their bodies send. Runners need to embrace cross training alternatives and activity needs to be stopped or diminished when pain is present. This becomes increasingly important as we grow older.

Page Last Modified: 05/17/2011
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