If you’re a long distance runner, the above sight probably makes you want to run. In fact, you may not even be reading this wonderful piece because you’re already busy lacing up the running shoes to pound some pavement. Your loss.
In all seriousness, long distance running is one of those hobbies that kind of transcends being a hobby and becomes part of who you are. Whether you derive a lot of satisfaction out of adding more and more races to your belt, or you just love the way a good 5-, 10- or 15-mile jaunt makes you feel, running can provide a lot of benefits. Aside from burning calories, improving cardiovascular health and reducing the risk of cancer and other diseases, running can greatly improve mental health by working to reduce anxiety and depression and improving your general mood.
There’s a lot to like about long distance running but alas, like all good things, there’s some bad that can come with the good. Fortunately, understanding these risks and being intentional about countering them can keep you upright and running–and when time allows, reading great writing like this.
Here’s are Eight Potential Risks of Long Distance Running and How to Avoid Them
Athletes and sports fans have likely heard coaches or broadcasters utter some iteration of the phrase, “There’s a difference between being hurt and injured.” The intimation is that you can work through being hurt while being injured will keep you sidelined. While there may be some measure of truth to the expression, being hurt or injured is not fun. Both can result from long distance running, especially if you’re not smart about how you run.
How to Avoid
Be smart. Generally speaking, most injuries can be avoided altogether or mitigated by having a plan, sticking to said plan, knowing your body, taking care of your body and understanding your limits. Having the appropriate head-to-toe–and then-some gear to carry you safely through all those miles is necessary as well.
Muscle damage and inflammation can pop up after pretty much any intense exercise, and long distance running certainly qualifies. General soreness is one thing but IT band soreness or conditions like runner’s knee are more serious issues to be wary of.
Gradually ramping up your running program is a good way to steer clear of these conditions. It’ll be too much of a shock to your body if you jump from 10 miles a week to 30 without any buildup. Implementing a thorough stretching routine before and after your run can also be crucial to keep you feeling good enough to get back out there tomorrow and the next day, and the day after.
Stitches aren’t fun. And we’re not talking about the kind that suture cuts and scrapes. Side stitches are a type of stomach cramp that can plague some runners in the abdominal region. It can vary in severity but is certainly enough to throw you off your pace or even prevent you from continuing on.
To avoid it altogether, don’t run on a full stomach and work plenty of side torso twists, lower back and abdominal exercises into your routine. If stitches do pop up, decrease your pace for a few minutes and practice deep breathing techniques to soldier through the pain.
You might think of blisters merely as nags, but they can be terribly painful and, left untreated, can lead to a poor form that opens the door for a whole gamut of problems. Since blisters are simply the result of the foot sliding or rubbing inside the shoe, wearing well-fitted running shoes and comfortable socks is the best preventative measure.
Allergies and Asthma
It’s not unbelievably common but since they’re outside so much, long distance running enthusiasts with allergies and asthma can be more prone to have those conditions flare up. Exposure to airborne allergens is obviously greater for runners than it is for those who don’t get outside a whole lot.
When it comes to asthma, running without proper hydration–more on that in a bit–can dry the airways and lead to attacks. Knowing the severity of your conditions and managing it accordingly, with the help of medical professionals, is the best course of preventative action.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Any long distance runner worth his or her salt probably has a running water bottle attached to their person at pretty much all times. Failure to hydrate disrupts all your body processes, leading to a whole host of problems that can be especially severe–think heat stroke–if they come to a head during a long run or race.
Since it’s a real challenge to stay hydrated on really hot days, investing in a hydration pack or waist pack is wise for running diehards. Opt for ones that strike an ideal balance of weight, storage capacity and durability to satisfy even the most weight-conscious runners. Ones with breathable material allow for maximum comfort so you can get plenty of water without being weighed down by even more sweat.
Unless you’re an ultra-serious competitive runner, chances are you haven’t given a lot of thought to your form. Well, it’s worth dedicating some time too because the poor form can help bring about a wide swath of problems. Proper form will also help you be more efficient, which can help you meet those goal times you’ve been striving for.
Studying good running form or consulting a running coach can help, but for starters, think about rhythm, posture and relaxing. Practicing all three will help keep you in tip-top shape.
We hit on this earlier, but it’s worth reiterating. Running beyond your current level of fitness puts muscles, tendons, and ligaments under great strain. Shin pain or even worse, shin splints, can be a common symptom of overtraining. To remedy, think about incremental progress and train accordingly without overdoing it.