Runners need to stay S.M.A.R.T. to cut their risk for overuse injuries, experts say.
S.M.A.R.T. stands for Stretch, Move, Add it up, Reduce strain, and Talk to a physiotherapist, according to new guidelines from the Canadian Physiotherapy Association.
Running can be of great benefit to health. A 30- to 40-minute run, three or four times a week, helps maintain flexibility, increase mobility, and build strength and endurance. It can also reduce stress, lower risks for heart disease, and help achieve and maintain a healthy weight, according to the association.
However, like any strenuous activity, running does carry some risk of injury. Many running-related injuries are caused by overuse - the same body parts are used over and until repetition causes a problem, resulting in injury.
The following S.M.A.R.T. tips can help prevent overuse injuries, the association says:
- Stretch. Perform specific stretching exercises before and after each run, concentrating on the calf, hamstring, quadriceps, groin, buttocks, outside of the knee, and back.
- Move. Proper body posture and body mechanics will help reduce the strain on the body.
- Add it up. Runners should take a gradual approach to increasing their running distance and speed. Pushing too hard from one week to the next could result in an injury. Mileage should only be increased about 10 percent per week, the experts say.
- Reduce strain. Avoid running on hard surfaces. Dirt paths are better than asphalt and asphalt is better than concrete. Beware of grass, which can hide holes, rocks and other hazards. Rotate activities - running, cycling, swimming - in order to reduce strain. Don't overdo it. Proper rest is essential. Drink plenty of fluids while running.
- Talk to a physiotherapist for fitness and injury prevention advice.