Running Safely During Quarantine

April 17th, 2020

This is an unprecedented time. We are all doing our part to flatten the curve, and these can include changes to our normal fitness routines, plans, and goals. Gyms are closed and fitness classes are cancelled. Folks are looking for more ways to stay active while also respecting each other’s health and physical distancing. Running is a simple and natural solution. The weather is supposed to get nicer this month, and that will happen eventually despite the snow collecting outside as I write this.

Running is a cheap and readily available activity, and it is one thing that we are allowed to do during the quarantine. Though, be sure to stay six feet from your fellow citizens and try to stay in your neighborhood. Running is a great way to work on your cardiovascular endurance, get some fresh air, and explore your neighborhood. Running, like all exercise, is an effective way to keep our muscles, bones, brains, heart and lungs healthy. However, there are risks that can be associated with running, if not approached the right way. We are going to discuss some helpful tips to help reduce the likelihood of injury if you are thinking about adding running into your fitness regimen.

How has running changed over the years?

Running has seen a large boom in popularity over the past several decades. The amount of recreational runners has increased dramatically. Runner’s World Magazine reports that 303,000 runners finished a half-marathon in 1990. In 2013 that number jumped to 1.96 million [1]. Currently there are about 35 million people that run for either exercise or sport [3]. That is some impressive growth in just over 23 years.

 What does this data suggest? More people are participating in events in a recreational manner. This means teachers, office assistants, computer engineers and other non-professional runners are running. An increase in the amount of runners has led to an increase in the amount of running injuries with an incidence anywhere from 26% to 92% [3]. Injuries are especially common to novice, or beginner runners [2].

What are some risk factors associated with running injuries?

There are several factors reported that can impact the risk of running related injuries, which is defined as “any musculoskeletal complaint of the lower extremity or back caused by running that restricted the amount of running (distance, duration, pace, or frequency) for at least 1 week [2].” These include anything from previous injuries, running on concrete surface, distance, inserts/orthotics, age, previous sports activity, and experience with running [4]. Running mechanics and step rate have also recently been looked at to help minimize the risk of running related injuries [3]. Some of these risk factors, such as age and experience, are difficult to control. However, there is one risk factor that results in the majority of running related injuries. Roughly 70% of injuries are due to training error [3]

What does training error mean?

Training error is a vague term that tries to categorize running faults, or imperfections under one umbrella definition. Some of these faults in training are increasing mileage too quickly, aggressively upping the intensity, and going for longer distances [2]. Stress can be a good thing for the human body, as it allows the tissues to get stronger and more resilient. However, if there is not an adequate amount of time between the stresses applied, tissues are unable to adapt to the load and injuries can occur [5]. Essentially, there needs to be a gradual progression of intensity, distance, and duration of your runs, with an adequate amount of rest to limit the risk of injury.

How do we stay healthy while incorporating running into our fitness plans?

There are a variety of steps you can take to decrease your risk of running related injuries. One, you must get the appropriate amount of rest. If you are a novice runner, be sure to rest at least one day between your running days. This allows your body to adapt and recover from the stress of impact that running causes. 

Another positive step you can take is the appropriate progression of how far or how much you run. A study has shown that novice runners who increased “distance by more than 30% over a 2-week period seem to be more vulnerable to distance-related injuries than runners who increase their running distance by less than 10%” [2]

So, essentially, you should gradually increase the distance or time that you are running. If one week you run a total of 10 miles, the next week, only progress to 11 miles, a 10% increase. 

An additional step that you can take to reduce the risk of injuries is to participate in a functional strength training and mobility program at home focusing on lower body, core, and upper body exercises that improves both strength and coordination. Improving strength and coordination can allow you to run more effectively and efficiently [6]. These can include squats, lunges, planks, band walks, and balance activities. Our bodies need to be able to control the movements we demand of them, and one way to do this is to get stronger and become more coordinated! Take a look at our Instagram and Facebook page’s for some sample exercises that you can incorporate into your routine. To learn more about how you can reduce your risk of injury contact The Fit Institute to schedule a virtual physical therapy evaluation or virtual training session today! 

So, is running a good idea to add in to your workout plans?

Yes! Running is a great way to get exercise, especially when gyms are closed and fitness classes have been cancelled. However, make sure to follow the above steps to decrease the risk of a running related injury. Gradually increase your distance, make sure to rest and allow your body to recover, and incorporate other forms of exercise like strength training to keep your body strong throughout.

Before you begin increasing your mileage and speed to prepare for race season take advantage of our Gait and Running Analysis service. Included are TWO 30-minute sessions with one of our doctors of physical therapy with an in -depth assessment, video analysis, and individualized cross training program to stay ahead of your injuries. CONTACT US or call The Fit Institute 773.799.2795

Written by Thomas Dyke: Physical Therapist and Orthopedic Clinical Specialist on April 16, 2020.


1 “The Half Marathon’s Amazing Growth, in 3 Charts | Runner’s ….” 8 Apr. 2014, Accessed 15 Apr. 2020.

2 “Excessive Progression in Weekly Running Distance … – jospt.” Accessed 15 Apr. 2020.

3 “Always on the Run | Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports … – jospt.” 30 Sep. 2014, Accessed 15 Apr. 2020.

4 “Injuries in runners; a systematic review on risk factors and sex ….” Accessed 15 Apr. 2020.

5 “Etiology, Prevention, and Early Intervention of … – CiteSeerX.” Accessed 15 Apr. 2020.

6 Dicharry, Jay. Running Rewired: Reinvent Your Run for Stability, Strength & Speed. VeloPress, 2017.

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