Every year, after a few months of decreased running due to winter weather, I receive emails from people who are starting to ache after only a few days of running. Typically, if you take off for more than 2-3 months from a regular running routine, chances are when you start again you will start "where you left off," and actually over-train. Basically, you are running too far, too soon. It takes time to build up to a rigorous amount of running (4-6 miles day -- 4-5 times a week), even if you used to run this far in the fall of last year.
There is a link I refer many people to who complain of leg injuries. I have had many of these injuries BUT since I am not a doctor, I like for people to be better informed through the likes of www.drpribut.com. Dr. Steven Pribut is a doctor who enjoys running and has a site designed to help describe, prevent, and self-treat the most common running injuries. Click the links below to see what Dr. Pribut has to say about running and injury prevention. The types of injures that are most common to new runners and the ones that I receive questions on are the following:
Heel Injuries (Plantar Fasciitis)
Runner's Knee (PFS)
If you are an avid runner, chances are you have experienced at least one of these injuries. In fact, according to Runner's World, over 50 percent of all runners get injured every year.
Now, in the spring, after a winter layoff, OR if you are wishing to start running for the first time, I would recommend the following "step up program."
Stretch for a week first to loosen up stiff joints and connective tissue.
Choose non-impact aerobic activity like biking, elliptical gliding, rowing or swimming to do when injuries are first felt. It is never a bad idea to cross-train in any of these activities every other day in place a running.
Warm up properly and then stretch. Run nice and easy for about 5-10 minutes, then stretch once you are warm and the muscles and joints are more pliable. Never stretch "cold." See stretches in the 6 week Running Program.
Replace running shoes often. I go through shoes about every 2-3 months and ONLY run in my running shoes. Do not walk in your running shoes since you walk differently than you run. You do get what you pay for too. There are a number of types of shoes out there that range from $80-$120 for the better brands, however, you can save $20-30 by going online at retailers such as: http://www.bodynsolesports.com - this site also has information of gait analysis and the importance of orthotics (shoe insets) to help prevent injuries.
Update on running barefoot - From Army Soldier / runner - "recently in an Air Force Times article they previewed a Soldier and Marine that had had all the injuries you mention in your article and had given up on running until they discovered BAREFOOT running. This got me thinking and I bought a pair of Vibram Five Fingers to try and transition into and let me tell you what a world of difference it has made on my life. Previously running, I could only muster 4 miles as my all time longest run and that was in Iraq, after only 2 months of running virtually barefoot I’m up to 5 miles 4 times a week with a high of over 8. I am actually loving running again. I actually have a goal for the summer to run a half marathon here in North Pole Alaska and my next assignment trying to do a full marathon." Hey - there are other options out there!
Personally - I like to run barefoot on our local turf field and will do more barefoot running when we get rid of concrete. :)
Myofascia release with foam roller - This has helped to relieve post running soreness. See link on Foam Rollers.
I hope the information / links can help you prevent some of the common injuries. However, it is always recommended to see a doctor if you are in pain. Two of the running rules I use are: "If it hurts to run -- stop running" and "If it hurts to walk -- DO NOT run and go to a doctor."
Thanks for sending those emails -- I try to answer them all at firstname.lastname@example.org . Check out the StewSmith.com Fitness eBook store for ideas on running and training programs for military and law enforcement as well as weight loss/fitness plans.