Running can be a fun, social activity that gets you fit, strong and healthy in the process. But like most sports and exercise, it does come with some risks, especially if you’re running solo or at night. There are a few precautions you can take to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable workout:
- Be aware: of your surroundings and run against traffic so you can see cars approaching you. Try and avoid bushes or alleyways where people could be hiding.
- Know the area: and plan your routes around places you feel comfortable, even if it means going slightly further afield.
- Warm up: as it gives your muscles, bones and joints a chance to loosen up and gently increases your heart rate, so you’ll be able to run harder, for longer without getting injured.
- Stay hydrated: by drinking plenty of water. Good hydration can improve recovery, minimize injury and cramping, and maximise performance.
- Run in populated areas: which are well lit. You’ll feel a lot safer when there are other runners or cyclists around.
- Be visible at night: by wearing hi-viz reflective clothing and a head-lamp. And ditch the earphones, so you can listen out for traffic, or other people around you.
- Run with confidence: so you do not appear vulnerable to others. Even if you feel a little uncomfortable, act like you go running all the time, and know the area well.
- Tell a friend: where you’re going and how long you plan to be gone for. And always run with your phone in case you need to call for help.
And here’s a list of some useful kit which can help you stay safe and comfortable on your runs:
- Anti-blister socks
- Compression socks (help prevent cramps and swelling)
- Hi-viz clothing
- Knee support (if you have any existing injuries)
- A water bottle or hydration pack for longer distances
- Gloves and hat for cold weather
- Packable jacket (wind and water-resistant)
- Running watch to track your pace
- Phone with running app
- Energy gels for an extra boost
How can I prevent running injuries?
You don’t want to catch the running bug, and then go and put a stop to your training because you’ve injured yourself. Running injuries are all too common, and sometimes unavoidable, but it’s useful to know how to prevent injury and what warning signs to look out for.
- Runner’s Knee: is a common injury that occurs when the kneecap is out of alignment, and so rubs against the lower attachment of the thigh bone. Typically, this is an overuse injury, so try to avoid doing too much too soon.
- Shin Splints: feels like an achy pain down your shins, which is actually tears happening around your shinbone which can develop into something more serious. It’s an overload injury, so it’s important to reduce the amount of high-impact exercise, and switch to running on grass rather than pavements.
- Achilles Tendonitis: is where the Achilles tendon (connecting the two major calf muscles to the back of the heel) comes under too much stress. The tendon tightens and gets irritated, leading to pain in the back of the foot. Walking for a few minutes before you run can help, as can strong calves.
- Plantar Fasciitis: involves small tears and inflammation of the tendons and ligaments of the foot, resulting in a dull pain along your arch or heel. Losing weight can help prevent it, as can choosing shoes with good support.
If you do start to experience any pain whilst exercising, you should stop and see a GP or physio as soon as possible.