Whether done professionally or for fitness purposes, running, like all forms of exercising, comes with the risk of injury. This risk becomes even greater if you have weak muscles, follow a poor training plan, overlook safety, or take on too much too fast. Knowing how to train right and the precaution measures to take is the best way to protect yourself from running injuries. Use these tips to reduce running error and ensure safety when training on the open road, treadmill, track, or your favorite trail.

1. Build Momentum Gradually

When it comes to running, patience pays especially if you are fresh off the couch. Jumping in too quickly in a bid to drop extra pounds quickly and hit that 21K goal you have in mind will only lead to an overexertion injury such as a busted knee, pulled hamstring, sprained ankle, or even overall fatigue. So, give your body time to get used to the impact of running by starting small and building momentum gradually. A good starting point would be 30-minute runs for 3-4 times a week. As your body gets stronger and accustomed to enduring runs, you can up workout intensity with gradual increments of 1-2 miles or 5-10 minutes at a time.

2. Include Strength Training In Your Running Program

What most people are not aware of is that the best defense against running injuries is a strong body. Strong muscles, ligaments, and tendons greatly reduce the impact running has on the body. What’s more, strength in muscles works at improving form and leads to a consistent gait that greatly minimizes the chances of suffering a running-related injury. Therefore, if you will be running regularly, make sure to include strength training into your workout plan. Key areas to focus on are the core, hip muscles, and lower body. Strong abs, glutes, and hip muscles increase leg stability all the way down to the ankles. This stability in turn protects knees from injury and provides a solid landing foundation that is light on all involved muscles.

3. Do Not Overdo It with Your Warm-ups

Like with any form of exercise a good warm up routine prior to the planned running session helps prevent injuries. However, overdoing it with the warm-up can cause more harm than good. So, leave those deep lunges, yoga poses, and pull-ups, for the cool down part of your routine and instead engage in very light movements (such as front, back, and side bends, hip flexor stretches, leg stretches, or a light walk that gradually turns into a jog) before embarking on your run. The key is to engage in routines that require continuous movement as opposed to workouts that require you to hold a position for long.

4. Heed Warning Signs

With the few exceptions of a misstep that results in a fall, a bad landing that causes an ankle to twist awkwardly, or a rough movement that pulls a hamstring, most running injuries have a gradual onset. For the most part, pain that gets worse with movement, persistent soreness, impaired movement, or aches that take longer than usual to subside will develop long before injury occurs. Ignoring warning signs and pressing through the pain can turn what was a simple case of continuous soreness into a full-blown injury. For this reason, make it a rule to stop all intense physical activity for a few days if something hurts. Once pain is gone, resume your normal workout plans at a gradual pace.

5. Wear the Right Shoes

Lastly, you must invest in quality running shoes. Without good running shoes, all efforts taken towards preventing injury go down the drain as a bad pair of shoes interferes with your running form and delivers a tough blow to your muscles with each stride. So, make sure to take the time to shop for running shoes. Key features to look for include a snug fit, superior cushioning, breathability, and good traction.