3 Tips to Avoid Getting Injured When Starting Back Running

April 25, 2019 ,

With the arrival of spring, many people start back running outside. But did you know that more than 50% of runners will get injured during their running season? The most common injuries include plantar fasciitis, shin splints, Achilles tendinitis, patellofemoral syndrome and stress fractures. Here are three tips to prevent this from happening to you!

1) Start running PROGRESSIVELY

There are various factors that can cause running injuries, but the most important is training overload, that is to say doing too much, too quickly. This usually happens because of one’s greater level of cardiovascular capacity; many people who are not used to running (but may practice other sports) feel capable of running longer, but their joints, bones, muscles and tendons are not yet adapted to the repeated impact involved with running. When pain begins, it is often already too late, so it is necessary to take preventative action early. To do this, here are two recommendations:

  • If you are new to running or have not run for several weeks, it is best to start running by alternating walking and running. For example, you can alternate between one minute of walking and one minute of running, then gradually increase the duration of the running phase.
  • When you are ready to run continuously, be sure not to increase your run time by more than five minutes per week. For example, if your longest outing last week was 20 minutes, then this week do not run longer than 25 minutes.

2) Respect the principle of stress quantification

The body is able to adapt to the extent that the stress applied is not greater than its capacity of adaptation. Pain during or after exercise, swelling, or morning stiffness are signs that you have exceeded your body’s capacity of adaptation. It is recommended to run regularly (ideally at least four times a week) without exceeding your maximal capacity of adaptation. During high volume training weeks, you can increase your workout volume by adding a mechanically less stressful exercise like cycling or swimming. By running regularly and increasing the volume and intensity of your workouts gradually, your body will adapt and your ability to tolerate stress will increase, allowing you to do more. It should be noted that several factors can influence the maximal capacity of adaptation such as fatigue, anxiety and psychological stress.

3) Reduce the impact on your joints

To minimize the force of impact, energy loss and risk of injury, while maximizing one’s stride efficiency, it is best to have a frequency of steps above 170 steps per minute, no matter the running speed. In an attempt to increase the frequency of your steps, you can reduce your stride (take smaller steps) and make sure to place your feet under your body when running (and not in front), as if there was a wall in front of you. You can use a metronome or even use a watch and try to run three steps per second or to place the same foot down at least 43 times in 30 seconds.

Another way to minimize the impact on your joints is to vary the type of surface you run on. Indeed, flat surfaces (such as the road, track, or treadmill) induce the same gesture with each stride. This regularity of movement creates a repetition that can increase the risk of injury. It is advisable to incorporate irregular surfaces into one’s training, such as natural trails, that allow a greater variety of movements.


Kathryn Adel
Kathryn holds a Bachelor Degree in Nutrition as well as a Bachelor and a Master Degree in Kinesiology, all from Laval University. She is a Registered Dietitian and active member of the Ordre professionnel des Diététistes Nutritionnistes du Québec (ODNQ) and of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She holds the Monash University's certification for the FODMAP diet and IBS, and has considerable clinical experience in that area. She is also an accomplished athlete, having ran track and cross-country at a national level. Kathryn specializes in sports nutrition, weight loss, diabetes, as well as heart and gastrointestinal health.

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