Before participating in any organized sport, players should see their doctor for a pre-participation physical exam.
The leading cause of injury in running and track and field are poor warm-up and cool down. For muscles to perform properly, they have to be warmed-up and stretched—particularly quads, hamstrings and calves. There are several good practices runners and track and field athletes can put in place to protect their muscles:
- Allow plenty of warm-up time before practices and games. The body needs time to get blood flowing to cold muscles. Light jogging, followed by stretching can help prevent pulled muscles and soreness. Stretches should be held for at least 20 seconds and repeated up to 10 times.
- Allow time to cool down after practices and games. Performing long, slow stretches allows muscles to recover from being overworked. It can also help to decrease stiffness and soreness and maintain flexibility.
- Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after practices and competitions to prevent dehydration.
- Make sure shoes fit well, are supportive and meet the needs of the sport. Remember that substance is more important than style.
- If possible, go to a good running/athlethic shoe store with a well-trained staff, who are qualified to ensure a proper fit and answer questions.
- Running shoes need to be replaced every year or every 400 miles, whichever comes first.
- Distance runners benefit from strength training that incorporates high repetitions and low weight.
- When lifting weights, athletes should try to achieve three to five sets of an exercise, performing 12 to 15 reps comfortably.
- Focus on large muscle groups (shoulders, biceps, triceps, chest, quads, hamstrings and calves).
- Do not lift weights on consecutive days.
- Distance runners predominately use slow twitch muscles fibers, or type 2, which are used in aerobic activities, such as endurance training. In contrast, fast twitch fibers, or type 1, are used in short, powerful bursts, such as sprinting and power lifting. You can see the difference in the physiques of a sprinter versus a marathon runner.
- Flexibility is important. Stretch between sets, on off days and before competitions.