Running is one of the most popular forms of exercise. Although running has many benefits, there are things to take into consideration whether you are new to the running scene or have been running for the past 10 years. Running on a regular basis, with little change in one’s running routine, can lead to adverse affects on the body including overuse injuries, joint pain, and potential deterioration of cartilage in the lower extremities.
The most common signs of endurance overtraining are: decreased performance and the inability to meet previously attained goals, decreased body fat, increased muscle soreness, chronic fatigue, constant feelings of thirst, loss of appetite, and headaches. Those in an over-trained state may also experience depression, low self-esteem, fear of competition, and loss of perseverance. These symptoms are due to severe overtraining, which can take several weeks to several months to resolve.
More common issues experienced by runners are joint pain and eventual overuse injuries to the musculoskeletal system. These injuries include shin splints, muscle strains especially in the hamstring and calf muscles, stress fractures, IT band syndrome and lateral knee pain, frontal knee pain, plantar fasciitis (excessive tightness of the arch and heel pain), and others.
To help prevent overuse injuries from running, follow these tips:
- Change your running style and keep it varied
- Run different distances, different speeds, and different routes to prevent the same type of impact affecting the muscles and joints day in and day out.
- Cross Train
- Add cycling or swimming days to replace one or more of your running workouts to decrease impact on the muscles and joints without sacrificing improvements in cardiovascular performance.
- Lift weights
- Running puts a great deal of stress on the muscles of the lower body and, without proper strength training, the muscles may be less likely to handle the stress, thus resulting in injury. Increase strength and performance with exercises that target the major muscle groups including legs, chest, and back. Also include plenty of core work.
- Stretch regularly
- Most joint pain is caused by excessively tight muscles. The best muscles to stretch after your run are your outer hips, quads, hamstrings, and calves to help prevent knee and low back pain. Hold each stretch for 15-30 seconds after each workout to prevent injury and improve running performance.