Friday, August 27, 2010

Avoiding Common Running Injuries.

Running is a high-impact activity, so it is inevitable that we will suffer from some form of injury during or after running. Since injuries cannot be completely avoided, all we can do is understand what is in store for us when we start running seriously - and take precautions to lower the risk of injuries.

Not all injuries are bad though. For example, every time we run, our bones suffer micro-injuries due to the impact of our body hitting the hard ground (similar to how our muscles get micro-injuries when we lift heavy weights).

But these micro-injuries are good for us because it causes our body to counter the effect of the injuries by healing the bones and making them stronger. This results in higher bone density and eventually helps us overcome the effect of Osteoporosis.

What we should try to avoid is major injuries that can cause disruptions in our daily activities. The following are some of the injuries that I have gone through - and something that I could have easily avoided if I had read this article first.

1. Blisters: Blisters can be painful and will force you to take a break from running.

How to avoid Blisters? Blisters can be avoided by wearing proper footwear. The usual cause of blisters is wearing shoes that are too tight or too loose. Shoe is the most important item in your running inventory so make sure you choose the right footwear. You also need to break-in new shoes till your feet are adjusted to the new shoe. If you buy new shoes, don't wear them for your next long-distance run. Instead, wear them for walks or short runs till the shoe becomes comfortable.

2. Muscle Cramps: If you start running for the first time, or re-start your running activities after a long break, this is something you are bound to encounter in the early stages of your running. It is your body protesting against the sudden onslaught.

How to avoid Muscle Cramps? Muscle cramps can be avoided by doing proper warm-up and cool-down. Warm-up should be brisk walk or light jogging while cool-down should be stretching exercises.

3. Knee Joint Injuries:  Knee joint injuries happen due to over-training. Each of us have a injury threshold. Once you reach the threshold, joint injuries are inevitable. Trick is to find your threshold and make sure you don't cross it.

How to avoid Knee joint injuries? Don't be the Hare. Be the Tortoise. You need to take it easy in the beginning and increase the distance and pace very very slowly till your body gets adjusted to running. Going overboard is the usual reason for knee joint injuries. When I first re-started my running, I was so excited that I could run 5K, I would try and see if I could push myself to 10K. That was not the correct approach (and something I learned the hard and painful way). We need to increase our distance in small increments. Also, listen to your body. When you feel tired or feel any pain, don't run through the pain. Stop and rest. We are not competing for the Olympics. The objective is to get into shape. Of course, if you are actually competing for Olympics, this blog is not for you.

4. Black Toenail: Black toenail injury is related to long-distance running (more than 10K) and usually happens if you increase your running distance unexpectedly. For example, if you are used to running 5K and suddenly decide to run half-marathon, you have an excellent chance of getting a black toenail.

How to avoid the Black Toenail? The solution is similar to the knee joint injury. Increase your distance gradually. This excellent article describes the black-toenail injury in detail and recommends solutions in case you do end up with one.

5. Nipple Chafing: Yeah. When I first read about nipple chafing, I did not believe it either till it happened to me. Nipple chafing usually does not happen to women since they use sports bras. However, for men, it can happen - especially during long distance runs. The constant movement of the shirt (especially if the shirt is loose) against the nipple results in chafing and is very painful. The problem is that you don't realize the injury until the next day, when it is too late to do anything about it except to nurse the injury.

How to avoid nipple chafing? Wearing proper running shirt (preferably the newer "technical" shirts) will solve the problem. Whenever I plan my half-marathon runs, I take a much simpler preventive route and put band-aids over both my nipples (don't laugh). You can also get specialized nipple guards, but I don't think they are available here in Kuwait.

So there you have it. Run sensibly and avoid these injuries.


  1. Great post Cajie. anyone that laughs at the nipple thing hasn't felt it before. Ill try the band-aids. Thanks for the tip

  2. Excellent article!
    I used to have muscle cramps and one of the remedies I found out was to compensate for the salt my body was losing via sweat.

    Since I dont run thankfully my nipples dont get raw but they do get sore when I'm working my upper body on the elliptical machine. I'll try the bandaid trick :)

  3. Thanks @Bader. I've found that as long as the run is less than 1 hour, nipple chafing is not really an issue. Anything more than that and you need to be careful.

    @bloggermathai. Sodium imbalance becomes a problem only if you are exercising for long duration. For example, when I do short runs (less than 45 minutes), I don't bother with any sports drinks. I might sip on some cold water. But when I run for an hour or more, then I worry about sodium loss. A Gatorade takes care of sodium loss for me.

    BTW, I am still waiting for that powdered Gatorade :)

  4. Did you ever try Energy Gels. I tried the GU Gel and there not too bad. Where can one get powdered Gatorade in Kuwait?

  5. Bader, I don't know about the energy gels. Are they available in Kuwait?. If so, where?

    As for powdered Gatorade, I used to find them only in Sultan Center. But now they don't seem to have them in stock.

  6. I don't know if they're sold here but I bought these from

    I used them for a bout two months. They really helped me finish my workouts. I used get very dizzy after swimming. I also find them better than Gatorade because you take one pack every 30-45 minutes so I don't have to stop my swimming and drink anything.

    Too bad about the gatorade, Guess I'll order from Amazon.

  7. It iss true that running is a high-impact activity. This is also very beneficial among those who want to stay fit and healthy.