Knee injuries are a hot topic with every runner. And it’s an important one too because a knee niggle can be very debilitating; eventually making you reach a point where you have to stop running entirely, or take a lengthy break.

Of course, there are always some basic precautions that you can take to avoid knee injuries. To begin with, the most common knee-related injuries are patello-femoral pain, also known as runner’s knee, and iliotibial band (ITB) syndrome. These injuries happen because of either overuse or by a misalignment of the joint, which gets worse with improper running habits.

Stretch those muscles
Always stretch before and after your run. People always underestimate the importance of stretching but it really helps the muscles warm up and gets the blood flowing. The video below outlines the major stretches you must do after your run to help loosen up your muscles and improve flexibility.

Increase volume gradually
New runners get over-enthusiastic about running, once they have got into it. Remember that breaks are important for recovery of muscles and joints. Keep at least a day in between in your runs, to rest, relax and perhaps cross-train. Mix up your runs, alternating between short runs and long runs, to establish the muscle memory that’s crucial for running. Running injuries don’t come out of nowhere. There are usually signs of aches, soreness and niggling pain. These are signs that you need to heed and address immediately. Swap running for another exercise like biking or walking until the pain/soreness dies down. No matter how great you feel, increase your mileage gradually at the rate o 10% per week.

Establish reasonable goals
Setting running goals allows you to plan the most comfortable routine depending on your physique. Run at a quicker pace to improve your heart rate and cardiovascular fitness, but only if you are comfortable with running in the first place. Beginners should always ease into a routine, like the FirstRun app. You may want to begin with a steady walking pace or slow jog to ensure you are not taking on too much work load immediately, thereby reducing injuries.

Well-rounded meals
Runners need more calcium than other people, so make sure you eat those dark green vegetables and drink a large glass of milk everyday. You can also take calcium pills, but that’s best done under a doctor’s supervision. And to restore your glycogen levels, make sure there’s a bit of carb in your diet. Of course, all of this is moot without a hydration plan, so make sure you have adequate water intake to prevent cramps that can further lead to muscular injuries.

Cross train
Add some cross-training routines to your weekly schedule for well-rounded development. On days when you are not running, try out adjacent activities such as swimming, or cycling, or even sports like football and basketball. Runners work certain muscles more than others (hamstrings more than quads). This eventually leads to an imbalance and can cause injuries. When you cross train, you work all the muscles of your legs, thereby maintaining the balance.

Check your shoes
Last, but not the least, wear shoes with the right amount of support. Always check to see whether your shoes are up to the task of running, especially for older pairs. A few simple tests are all you need to assure yourself of their upkeep. And if you are running in the trail, as opposed to your usual road routine, then wear appropriate shoes that can provide you with traction and prevent slippage, which really does hurt the knee.

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