Although many of the usual weekend fun runs, charity 5Ks and multi-stage team relays have been cancelled or gone virtual during the COVID crisis, that hasn’t stopped runners’ spirit. 

And, as recreation and competitive runners continue to hit the roads and trails, Tacoma physical therapist Chad McCann reminds us that avoiding common training mistakes can keep runners healthy, active and in competitive shape 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 common, especially as runners try to push themselves through potential soreness and pain throughout the year,” said McCann, physical therapist at 3Dimensional Physical Therapy & Sports Conditioning in Tacoma. “Plantar fasciitis, Achilles problems, knee pain, IT band friction syndrome … these are all common running injuries, often caused by the lack of proper strength, flexibility, mechanics, or a combination of these factors.” 

To help keep runners on track through the heart of the summer season, McCann 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. 

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. For your cooldown, do some light walking and stretching to help reduce the buildup of lactic acid, which can lead to stiffness and muscle cramps. 

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 properly, support your feet correctly or sufficiently absorb the impact of each stride, you’re going to feel it,” McCann said. “It’s important to not only wear a good, high-quality shoe, but also one that matches your foot type.” 

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, 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, McCann 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,” McCann 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 3Dimensional Physical Therapy & Sports Conditioning.