Are You Running Too Much?

Too much running can lead to injury

Running is one of the easiest ways to get fit, but it's also the most common causes of sports injuries. Runners are at higher risk for overuse injuries that develop slowly from chronic stress after piling on the miles from season to season and year to year. These sorts of injuries typically develop without any obvious traumatic event to cause an injury. Most are the result of a wide variety of factors that over time lead to chronic stress on the joints and soft tissues. Overuse injuries can be hard to treat, so prevention is the best solution. 

You can't always avoid or prevent every injury, but runners who follow some basic guidelines can reduce the likelihood of developing chronic nagging aches and pains.

How do you know if you are heading towards an overuse injury? Here are seven warning signs to watch for:

1
You Are Running Too Much, Too Soon

running and overuse injuries
running and overuse injuries. Credit: Chris Tobin / Getty Images

Increasing running mileage or time too quickly is the leading cause of running injuries in recreational runners. Use the 10 percent rule (increase mileage by no more than 10 percent per week) to help prevent overuse injuries while allowing the body to adapt to training levels.

Some runners just overtrain. Too much mileage is likely to lead to injury in those not able to tolerate running at an extreme level. Cutting down on total running mileage and cross-training by cycling or swimming will help overcome this problem without compromising on fitness levels

Not allowing enough rest and recovery time between runs may also contribute to injuries. It is during the rest phase after exercise that our muscles get stronger. Not allowing this rest leads to continual breakdown. It is critical to alternate rest with exercise to perform well.

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2
You Have Muscle Weakness and Imbalance

runners need strength
runners need strength.

Lower-extremity and core strength training should be added to routine training for runners.

Runners should perform strength training for the following muscle groups: quadriceps, hamstrings, hips (squats, dead lifts, and lunges), calves (heel raises), shoulders (shoulder shrugs), upper back (dumbbell rows), chest (push-ups), biceps (curls), triceps (triceps kickbacks), and lower back (extension: lie on stomach and lift feet and arms off ground).

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3
You Run on Hard or Uneven Running Surfaces

running surface and injuries
running surface and injuries. Getty Images/Hagephoto

Hard surfaces increase the amount of stress on the muscles and joints and increases the risk of chronic tissue trauma.

Soft surfaces (like sand) may cause the heel to sink and your foot to slide on push-off, leading to Achilles tendon overuse (Achilles tendonitis.

Consistently running on one side of a road may cause injuries due to the road camber. The average road slants about seven to nine degrees so the result is that you are running on a slanted surface where one leg is hitting the ground at a higher level than the other. This may lead to a variety of biomechanical problems.

Uphill running can stress the Achilles tendon and the muscles in front of the leg (tibialis anterior) that lift the foot and toes. Running uphill may be particularly difficult for people with tight calves and Achilles tendons.

Downhill running places additional stress on the knees, which may result in pain developing in front or on the outer side of the knee.

It's a good idea for runners to vary their routes to avoid overdoing the uphill or downhill running and find a nice balanced mix, including some flat runs.

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4
You Wear Worn Out Shoes

Running Shoes and injuries
Running Shoes and injuries. Photo (c) Terje Rakke / Getty Images

Shoes are the most important piece of equipment for runners.

Buy a shoe that matches your foot type and weight. Flat-footed runners who (and pronators) should buy stability shoes with support. Those with high arches (or supinators) and heavy runners should look for good cushioning and arch support.

It is recommended that you replace running shoes between 350-550 miles depending on your running style, body weight, and the surface on which you run.

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5
You Have Poor Running Technique

running biomechaics
running biomechaics. Peathegee Inc/ GettyImages

Every runner has a unique running style and some styles can lead to overuse injuries. Because running tends to use the hamstrings to a large degree, strengthening the quadriceps is useful for most runners.

A normal foot strike lands flat or on the outer back portion of the heel and then rolls onto the sole and ends with the push-off from the ball of the foot.

A heavy heel-strike can lead to excessive traumatic forces and actually slow you down.

Landing hard on the midfoot or ball of the foot places more stress on the Achilles tendon (which will contract to counterbalance the force of the strike). This is seen often in sprinters. For these runners, stretching the calves and Achilles regularly is recommended to reduce injuries.

6
You Have Weak Hips and Knees

side plank for runners
side plank for runners. Getty Images

Runners can help reduce overuse injuries by adding some specific exercises to strengthen the hips and knees. Increasing the stability of the muscles supporting these two major joints can take some of the pressure off them during the repetitive pounding of running.

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7
You Don't Cross Train

Yoga for runners
Yoga for runners. Christoph Wilhelm / Getty Images

Runners who fail to cross train can significantly increase their risk of an overuse injury. It's important to let muscles rest and recover from the pounding that running may cause, so adding some days of yoga, stretching, swimming, weight training or cycling can give your running muscles a break.

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8
You Have Biomechanical Issues Biomechanical Issues

Testing mobility of foot.
biomechanics and injuries. Jan-Otto/ GettyImages

Your natural foot strike rotation may increase or decrease your risk of a running injury. In general, runners who pronate (roll the foot inward when they land) or supinate (roll the foot outward when they land) have a higher risk of running injuries than those with a neutral foot strike.

Orthotics and heel lifts can correct many biomechanical and alignments issues of the leg. Read more about how orthotics can help biomechanical alignment problems.

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9
You Have a High Body Weight

heavier runners more prone to injury
heavier runners more prone to injury. technotr/Getty Images

The heavier the runner, the more stress on the load-bearing tissues of the lower body. If you are overweight, losing excess body fat makes running much less stressful and results in fewer overuse injuries.

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