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Common Injury Prevention Mistakes

A woman wearing a sports bra lies on the ground to catch her breath

It may sound ludicrous but it's true: there are many ways that runners commonly create new injuries in the process of trying to prevent or rehab them. Some runners end up with new strains and pains because they take to PT the same dedication that pushed them to a new PR. Others, anxious to just run again, rush through their prescribed rehab moves, and miss out on the intended benefits.

Some runners just try to run through the pain, and end up altering their biomechanics to avoid the pain, which results in new injuries. Mistakes like these can lead to a cascade of injuries that can haunt a runner for the long term. These cascades can make layoffs last even longer than they have to. Here are some common injury-prevention mistakes and how to avoid them.

THE MISTAKE:

You mail it in. Using momentum instead of muscle, you just put your limbs through the motions as soon as possible to get back on the road, and back to your life as quickly as you can.

CORRECT IT:

Train with integrity. Work slowly and work one limb at a time. Remember: quality counts, not quantity. If you don't do your rehab moves with enough focus and concentration to get the benefits, then you're just wasting your time, and increasing the chances that your injuries will linger. If you need help with focus, have a physical therapist or a personal trainer at the gym spot you while you work through your routine. Or do your routine in front of a full-length mirror so you can spot yourself.

THE MISTAKE:

You swing to the other extreme, and stretch too far or too fast, and end up tearing something.

CORRECT IT:

Remember: there's no prize money or Olympic medal for stretching or PT. The intensity you use on the roads doesn't necessarily translate to your floor work. When it comes to stretching and rehab, slow, mindful, and gentle is the way to go. Go too hard and you could end up worsening your injury or creating a new one.

THE MISTAKE:

You're inconsistent. Your stretching or PT routine is sporadic at best, non-existent at its worst.

CORRECT IT:

You get the benefits of rehab by consistently and mindfully completing your routines. Put your rehab or prehab on your calendar, or plan to do it at the same time that you would typically run. Incentivize yourself to stick with it by queuing up a movie, book or podcast to watch that you'll only take in while you're completing your routine.

THE MISTAKE:

You blow it off completely, try to run through it, and end up creating new injuries because you are changing your gait to compensate for the pain.

CORRECT IT:

Sure, a certain amount of general achy muscle soreness will occur anytime you push your body to go farther or faster. But running should not hurt. Endurance and grit are about dedication and discipline—not white-knuckling your way through pain. If you attempt this, you could turn an achy spot into a full-blown injury. And you could create other injuries if you change your biomechanics to avoid stepping on that achey spot. If you have any discomfort that persists or worsens during your run or after your run, stop, rest for two to four days, and see a doctor.