Injury Prevention for Runners

January 20th, 2015

It’s that time of the year again where many of us will have resolutions that pertain to better health whether it’s eating healthy and/or starting an exercise routine. One of the most common forms of exercise is running. For a novice runner, it starts with getting the right gear: running shoes, wireless headphones, and of course the clothes to match the shoes! Now we are ready to begin, but how should we start? As a physical therapist I treat running injuries all the time, but most could have been prevented. In this blog I will provide you with some basic information on how to get your running program going while minimizing your risk for injury.

There are approximately 35 million people who run for exercise or leisure. Although running is a popular sport, it is not for everyone. Running is a high impact activity that for some maybe too stressful to their body. If you are experiencing leg or back pain while walking then running is probably not for you at this time. Other alternatives such as riding a bike, swimming or using an elliptical machine provide less stress but are still valuable methods of exercise.

Most running injuries are related to overuse; we try to run too far too fast. In a study published in the Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy, running injuries were most likely to occur in individuals who increased their running distance by more than 30% over a 2 week period. Injuries occurred to the ankle, knee or hip. Individuals who increased their weekly distance by less than 10% over a 2-week span were less likely to suffer injuries. Running long distances too soon doesn’t allow your body to recover and adapt to the new physical activity.

For a novice runner, it is recommended to run no more than 2-3X’s a week with at least 1-2 days rest in between each session. Use the days off from running to complete low impact activities such as cycling. A general stretching and strengthening program during the off days will also help to lessen the chance of injury. If you begin to feel pain, then you must give your body rest. No Pain, No Gain doesn’t apply to a novice runner and could lead to injury.

The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans suggests 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic intensity activity for adults. When you start your running program, it’s perfectly okay to run for short periods of time and then walk. Running for 30 minutes at a time will probably not be feasible to most novice runners. Gradually build up your time and distance and you can reduce your chance for injury. Here is a great website to view for other general fitness recommendations:

There are so many benefits to exercising. Focus on an activity that you like to do. Everyone is different. If you enjoy the exercise activity you are more likely to stick to a routine and reap all the benefits of your New Year’s Resolution. As I tell all my patients, “Don’t stop moving.”

Always consult your healthcare provider if you have health concerns about starting an exercise routine.

Schertz Parkway Physical Therapy is the only Free Standing Outpatient Physical Therapy Clinic in the Schertz and Cibolo area. We have received the highest rating in Quality of Care and Affordability by Humana Tricare. Dr. Felix Guerra has been practicing physical therapy for over 15 years and is a Board Certified Orthopedic Specialist from the American Physical Therapy Association. We welcome you to send any questions you have about this blog via email. Our email address is

Nielson RA, Parner ET, Nohr EA, Sorensen H, Lind M, Rasmussen S. Excessive Progression in Weekly Running Distance and Risk of Running-Related Injuries: An Association Which Varies According to Type of Injury. JOSPT. 2014;44: 739-748.