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Hitting the Trails? Time to Tune Up.

Information provided on the blog is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or offer treatment plans.

According to The Outdoor Foundation.org, the most popular outdoor activities for people ages 6 and up are as follows:

  1. Running, jogging, trail running – 5 million participants
  2. Road biking, mountain biking and MBX – 46.6 million participants

Nearly half of the American population participate in outdoor activities for reasons such as getting exercise, spending time with family and friends, and enjoying the outdoors. The last thing on anyone’s mind is getting injured doing something they like to do, but unfortunately, there is always that risk.

Whether a casual participant or a dedicated runner or bicyclist, here are a few tips to get the most out of your time outside and reduce the risk for injury:

For Runners

  1. Invest in the right pair of running shoes. Having the best tools makes all the difference in the world so make sure you get a good pair of shoes before hitting the pavement. If you have a local running store, purchase your running shoes there vs. a department store. Running shoes from a running store are more durable and the staff will make sure they fit your foot just right for running and give you the level of support that you need.
  2. Slow and steady wins the race. If you’re new to running, start out slowly. Patience is key and it’s best to build up slowly by making small goals for yourself. Gradually increase your running time 3-5 min minutes per run and keep your pace steady and consistent. Try to stay on level surfaces at first to allow you to use proper running form. Proper form is more important than how fast you can run in the beginning.
  3. Don’t skip the stretch. Your muscles will thank you if you incorporate daily stretching into your routine. But don’t do it as an afterthought. Dynamic stretching is very important to warm up your muscles prior to running. Following running, you should incorporate 10-15 minutes of static stretching into your routine. Each stretch should be slow, lasting at least 30 seconds, without a bouncing movement. Research shows that these types of stretching make you a more efficient runner and help keep you injury free.
  4. Cross-train and rest. Doing the same repetitive movement every day can lead to overuse injuries. Give your muscles a break and incorporate aerobic activity different from running. Walking, hiking, and weight training are popular cross training activities. Don’t forget to rest. It’s very important to include a rest days.
  5. Get your form checked. Your chance for injuries are greatly reduced if you take the opportunity to get your running gait analyzed, your flexibility and strength assessed for muscle imbalances,  and footwear checked. A small investment could help you avoid larger problems down the road. OrthoIllinois offers this service through the Run Right Running Clinic through a cash or insurance based program.

For Bicyclists

  1. Hang on to your handlebars. 
    This may be difficult to do, but if you start to fall, try to hang onto your handlebars. It’s the best way to avoid the most common bone breaks from bike falls – the collarbone and the scaphoid which is the bone in your thumb on the side of your hand. If you hang on to your bike when you fall, then your entire body will absorb the impact and you have a better chance of avoiding a break. Make sure to lift your head up so it doesn’t hit the ground.
  2. Make sure your bike seat isn’t too high.
    A too-high bike seat keeps your toes pointed down which causes constant contraction of the calf muscles. This can lead to Achilles tendonitis. A too-high bike seat can also lead to pain in the back of your knee as well (hamstring muscles).
  3. Make sure your bike seat isn’t too low. 
    If your seat is too low, you run the risk of aggravating the patellar tendon which is just below the kneecap. Patellar tendonitis can also be caused from riding too long using big gears. Try increasing your pedal speed (>90 revolutions/min) and raise the bike seat. When your pedal is in the 6 o’clock position, your knee should be unlocked.
  4. Add exercises for your core. 
    Bicyclists run the risk of lower back pain. To combat that as much as possible, incorporate core-strength training and low back and hip stretching into your pre-bike routine.
  5. Remember to stretch.  
    Incorporating five to 10 minutes of stretching before and after biking will help open up the hips and spine and reduce joint and muscle stiffness.
  6. Always wear a helmet.  Many serious bike injuries are caused by NOT wearing bike helmets. Helmets are cheap and can be found at your local sports store, bike shop, or online.

To learn more about how to avoid injury and get the most out of your run or bike, visit our Run Right Running Clinic or Bike Right Cycling Clinic pages or call to make an appointment today. OrthoIllinois offers free injury screens to help you decide if you need to see a doctor or could benefit from physical therapy regarding your injury.

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Jon Gallas, DPT

Jon Gallas is a doctor of physical therapy for OrthoIllinois. He's also an avid runner and biker, who likes to work with endurance athletes to stay healthy and perform better.


© OrthoIllinois, formerly known as Rockford Orthopedic Associates 2017