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The long run

Liz Parry gets some expert tips on injury prevention and joint health for runners

This month over 50,000 runners will take part in the London marathon, after several weeks of hard work and training. One of the things that strikes fear into the heart of any runner, however, is the prospect of injury.

“Injury prevention and joint protection are vital for maintaining physical health whilst running, and particularly when running long distances including marathons,” says Professor Courtney Kipps, Honorary Consultant in Sport and Exercise Medicine, Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health (, part of HCA Healthcare UK.. “While running these kinds of distances, your joints, bones, muscles and tendons are placed under constant stress, so it is important to look after them as well as possible to prevent injury.”

If you are preparing to take part in a marathon this year, or any other type of running event, take note of our expert tips and ensure that you arrive at the start line free from pain feeling strong.

Protect your joints

“To improve your joint health, it is important to incorporate weight and strength training into your workouts whilst training,” says Professor Kipps. “While cardio is vital for marathon training, weight training is just as necessary to strengthen your muscles to reduce the risk of joint injury. It is important to thoroughly warm up your muscles before a run or workout. An active warm-up is the best way to prime your muscles for action. There is no need to stretch beforehand, but stretching afterwards can provide welcome relief for tired muscles. Listening to your body is very important whilst marathon training. Overuse injuries are common and can have a big effect on your marathon training. If you have any aches and pains in your joints, then it is important to rest and speak to your doctor or physiotherapist if you are concerned.”

Improve your balance and flexibility

“Yoga can be used both as a warm-up and cool-down exercise,” says Amy Feighery, founder of Anvesaka Yoga and Aerial ( “It involves stretching and flexibility exercises that help to increase the range of motion in the joints. As runners put stress on their joints during a marathon, having greater flexibility can help absorb the impact. Certain yoga poses, such as the plank, downward dog, and warrior poses, can help to strengthen the muscles around the joints and reduce the risk of injury. Balance is a crucial component of running, and yoga poses that involve balancing, such as tree pose, can help to improve balance and stability. This can help to prevent falls and reduce the risk of injuries caused by missteps or uneven terrain.”

Follow a varied diet

“A varied diet including lots of fruits, vegetables, protein, nuts and seeds is very important,” says Professor Kipps. “Foods with excellent anti-inflammatory properties include berries, leafy greens and fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines, which are high in omega fatty acids. Whether you are exercising on a regular basis or not, it’s crucial to incorporate these nutritionally dense whole foods into your diet to support your joint and muscle health.”

Consider taking a supplement

“Supplementation is a fast and effective way to deliver vital nutrients shown to reduce inflammation and improve function/mobility, to help minimise the risk of injury,” says Camilla van-Haeften, Certified Nutritionist (AFN) and Head of Nutrition Research for gummy vitamin brand Novomins ( “Glucosamine and chondroitin are natural cartilage compounds aiding lubrication and hydration in our joints. Both ingredients offer well-established benefits on joint health including the potential to stimulate cartilage and collagen stores. Manganese is a powerful antioxidant and turmeric maintains healthy inflammatory responses. When combined, these ingredients offer a powerful nutritional complex specifically targeted at maintaining the health of your joints.”

Reduce any inflammation

“Ice baths following a run or workout can help reduce inflammation as they can change the way blood and other liquids travel through your body,” says Professor Kipps. “The cold causes your blood vessels to constrict, and once you are out of the bath the vessels dilate. This allows metabolic waste to be removed from the body and helps with healing. Heat can promote blood circulation to any areas of the body that require repair. This increase in circulation brings oxygen and nutrients to the injured area, which can help the body heal. Applying heat is also a good way of removing a build-up of lactic acid from sore muscles, which can help them to relax.”

Learn to move with control

Clinical Pilates is a practice which helps you to move with control and improve the body’s stabilising muscles, which is crucial for runners. “We have two types of muscles,” says physiotherapist and Clinical Pilates instructor Lyndsay Hirst ( “These are muscles that move our joints (the mobiliser muscles) and muscles that control the position of the joint as we move (the stabiliser muscles). Without the stabiliser muscles working we have an increased tendency to develop pain, injury and dysfunction. Learning how to move with control can help activate the stabiliser muscles and improve the overall function of the muscles. We can also have a tendency to develop muscle imbalances if we don’t train the stabiliser muscles. A muscle imbalance is where you might find that one muscle can compensate for weakness in another; this imbalance will impact the general movement of the joints.”

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