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How to stay injury-free while running

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I caught up with Alex Clark MCSP, the in-house physiotherapist at Neo G, to talk about running.

Here are his four tips for runners on how to stay injury-free.

Don’t jump straight in

I get it — the sun comes out and suddenly you want to swap your commute in the car for a jog to work, but make sure you build up to spending increased time on your feet, rather than jumping straight in.

Going straight into long runs or increasing the time on your feet drastically over a short period of time can contribute to both heel and foot pain, as well as other injuries . Consider gradually building up to activities in the next few weeks, increasing your mileage slowly as your body adjusts to increased demand.

Take another look at your shoes

With the better weather, people tend to wear different footwear such as lightweight trainers. However, this footwear can be less supportive for the heel and foot arch and can therefore alter your natural stride — increasing the likelihood of shin splints, Achilles pain, or plantar fasciitis. This in turn can lead to knee or lower back problems — not fun when you want to be out enjoying your run.

While I’m not suggesting you swap your regular trainers for expensive shoes, there are products out there that can help make your footwear more supportive. Invest in a good pair of orthotic insoles that either offer heel support or arch support, depending on your feet, or, if you’re wearing trainers with thin soles, consider using an insole for cushioning and support. Look for an insole that integrates cushioning with medical grade support to relieve pressure on the feet.

Make time for rest and recovery

It may seem counterproductive, but making sure you give your body ample time to rest and recover is key to staying injury-free. Increased temperatures and time spent running can cause swelling, so invest in an ice pack and use it on problem areas after a long run to help ease this swelling and prevent potential injuries arising.

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If you’re already experiencing muscle aches and pains, using a heat pack along with massaging the part of your body that’s in pain can help to relieve painful symptoms and reduce inflammation to get you back on your feet sooner. If you can get into a daily routine of applying some heat and massage to problem areas, and ice when swelling occurs, this will allow you to enjoy running without worrying about potential injuries.

Know how to spot something more serious

Mild pain and discomfort can be common when running, but it’s important to seek professional help if home remedies don’t work. Many problems, especially those caused by overuse, will respond well to rest and cold or heat therapy, but know when to see an expert. If you have severe pain, if you’re unable to put weight on your foot, or if the swelling or pain persists after a few days, make sure to seek help from your doctor or another medical professional.

It’s also a possibility that other pain in your body is being caused by problems in alignment in your feet. If this is a concern, seek advice from a physiotherapist, who will advise on exercises and strategies that might help.

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