6 ways to beat common running injuries

We reveal the top injury-free ways to increase your distance during Trail Running magazine's #Run1000Miles challenge with expert coach Paul Tierney

How many of the following apply to you: you don’t sleep well; you always have aches and pains; you constantly feel tired; you eat lots of processed food; you opt more for high-intensity training and less for aerobic movement; and you have a sedentary job. If this list sounds familiar – and for many people, it will – then you’re at a higher risk of injury, particularly if you decide to tackle a challenge like #Run1000Miles. It all comes down to stress: too much cortisol in your system without adequate recovery inhibits your performance and leads to overtraining. Which would really rock your progress back on its heels. That’s not to say you shouldn’t get involved – we’ve already outlined the myriad benefits of taking part, and that’s just scratching the surface. What’s more, though, is that #Run1000Miles – with all the social interaction and support that comes with it – is an opportunity to reverse the negative cycle listed above. Sign up now!

1 rest your head

Good quality sleep is an essential part of effective recovery – it’s when your body conducts most of its own internal healing and repair. You should be aiming for between seven to eight hours, but quality is more important than quantity. Remove all phones and tech from your bedroom and make it as dark as possible; not too hot, not too cold. Aiming to go to bed and wake up at the same times each day will make a huge difference, too.

2 eat real food 

No, we’re not saying abandon all your energy gels – they’re good for mid-run top-ups. But the vast majority of your nutrition should be sourced from natural, non-processed foods and drinks. Cutting out junk will help improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your digestive system, so you can extract more nutrients from your diet, which will help to aid recovery, promote better bone health and repair muscles.

3 ease out aches

Self-myofascial release (i.e. releasing tension with sustained pressure), such as foam rolling, is a great tool to help ease dysfunctional muscles, joints and fascia, which will keep you on the trails for longer. Don’t just blindly roll about on a foam cylinder though; you’re more likely to set yourself back than improve anything. Instead, take direction from a coach or physio, or, better still, treat yourself to a sports massage.

4 get up and go 

Chances are you’ll be running four or five times a week – possibly more, if you’re the ‘little and often’ type. But does that mean you can spend the rest of your time slouched in an office chair or vegging on the sofa? No. Regular movement, even if it’s just standing up to walk around the office, will keep your muscles limber and prevent your joints from seizing up. Feel free to take a break now and then – we know we will – but balancing it with regular activity will keep you on the path to injury-free trails.

5 keep quiet 

When warming up – we know it’s boring, but you’ll thank us – aim to complete some easy jogging while breathing inaudibly through your nose. You’ll be going at a fairly slow pace, but keeping that goal in mind will help keep the effort you exert to a minimal, which is perfect for increasing blood flow around the muscles without risking pulling one of them. Once you’re finished with that, try the six exercises, far right.

6 Warm-up & cool down right

Start and finish each run with these six moves to mobilise your joints and keep your running style safe and efficient.

deep squat 

Many trainers warn about squatting beyond parallel, i.e. where your hips pass below  the line of your knees. They may have a point when it comes to weighted squats, but for this mobility variation you need to move through a full range of motion. Keep your weight towards the front of the foot to increase your ankle range.

PIGEON POSE

Start on all fours with your knees bent, then place your left knee down just behind your left hand, rotating the left shin so your foot points across to your right hip bone. Now, keeping your hips square to the front, extend your right leg behind you and fold over your left leg. If you can push that to parallel with your hips, all the better.

EXTERNAL ROTATION DRILL

Step backward into a deep lunge, leaning over your forward knee to plant your hands on the ground. Keeping your weight on your back foot and hands, draw your front knee out to the side so it lowers closer to the ground, your hips pushing towards the floor while remaining square on.

POSTURE SQUATTO HIP EXTENSION

Stand on the balls of your feet before squatting down as low as you can, remaining on your forefoot. Now lower down so your knees hit the ground, grabbing hold of your heels. Push your hips forward, your back arching and head facing upwards, and your arms straight. Reverse to standing.

INTERNAL ROTATION DRILL

Sitting with your knees bent, twist both legs to your left so the outside of your left knee touches the ground, and so too the inside of your right knee, which will be placed next to your left foot. Keep your bum off the ground as you push your hips up and forward, then lower back down.

SCAPULA PRESS-UP

From a press-up position, rock forward onto the balls of your feet and tuck your pelvis to create tension in your core. Keep your arms straight as you squeeze your shoulder blades, then round your shoulders to open up the space between them. Opening and retracting your scapula will loosen the muscles in your upper back.