It’s the season for weekend fun runs, charity 5Ks and multi-stage team relays. But as recreation and competitive runners hit the roads and trails to prepare for upcoming events, Eugene physical therapist Craig Iseli reminds us that avoiding common early season training mistakes can keep runners healthy and competitive throughout the season.

This is an especially important message considering about 60 to 65 percent of all runners experience an injury during the average year.

“Running injuries are very common, especially early in the season when people are excited about the upcoming races and pushing their training beyond what their body is ready for,” said Iseli, owner of Limitless Physical Therapy. “Plantar fasciitis, Achilles problems, knee pain, IT band friction syndrome … all common running injuries, often by jumping into training, without the proper strength, flexibility, and form.”

To help keep runners on schedule throughout the spring and summer outdoor season, Iseli suggests avoiding the following five running mistakes:

  1. Skipping Warmup and Cooldown: While workout windows can be tight and difficult to secure during a given week, don’t use time constraints as an excuse to avoid properly warming up and cooling down before and after a run, Iseli said. Some walking, light jogging, skipping, high knees and butt kicks prior to running increases heart rate and circulation, loosens up the joints and increases blood flow to the muscles, all helping prepare your body for training. For your cooldown, do some light walking and stretching to help address areas where overload may have happened, which can lead to stiffness and irritation.
  2. Wearing the Wrong Shoes: How your feet strike the ground will affect muscles and joints throughout your body’s entire kinetic chain, from the feet and ankles, through the knees and hips, and up into your spine and torso. “If your shoes don’t fit you properly, support your feet correctly, it will impact your training and place you at a higher risk for injury,” Iseli said. “It’s important to not only wear a good, high-quality shoe, but also one that matches your foot type, type of running, and running mechanics.”
  3. Not Listening to the Body: Don’t subscribe to a “no pain, no gain” model when running. Sure, you’ll want to push your body hard, Iseli said, but if you feel pain or an unnatural level of discomfort or fatigue, stop, assess and seek treatment from a physical therapist or other medical professional, if necessary.
  4. Focusing Only on Cardio Fitness: With running, cardio fitness is certainly important. But when it comes to both injury prevention and performance enhancement, flexibility and strength are equally as vital. Stretch daily and during cooldown periods, Iseli said, and build strength in your calves, knees, hips and core through heel drops and body weight squats.
  5. Forgetting to Rest: It’s good to push yourself, but rest and recovery are essential in avoiding injury, burnout and plateauing before you’ve reached your fullest potential. So always work rest into your long-term training regimen. “This doesn’t mean just kicking up your feet and relaxing for a day,” Iseli said. “Sometimes, ‘rest’ can simply mean mixing up your training so you’re not challenging your body the same way every day.”

To learn more about proper training, including personalized assessments and the development of training regimens that can enhance your running performance and ensure optimal injury prevention, contact the physical therapy team at Limitless Physical Therapy.