Avoiding Running Injuries
Running is touted as one of the healthiest exercises we can do. But running can also be harmful to our bodies if we aren’t smart about it. Every time your foot strikes the ground, your leg absorbs impact three times your body weight. Multiply that by the number of steps you take and how many times you run, and you can see how much stress your legs deal with as a runner.
Follow these seven training tips to prevent running injuries:
1. Train smart.
The goal of training is to obtain the greatest amount of benefit while incurring the least amount of stress. Rather than running that same 5-mile loop around your neighborhood day after day, switch things up! Smart running means following a systematic training plan, with each cycle building to create a progressive and safe program. Consult a coach to get the right training program for you.
2. Increase your weekly running mileage slowly.
How quickly you increase your weekly mileage has the greatest impact on the probability of you getting injured. The more gradually you increase your mileage, the less chance you'll get injured. When you increase your mileage, add only about a mile per day of running so that you spread the stress around. For example, if you run 20 miles over four days in a week, run no more than 24 miles next week by adding 1 mile to each of the four days. Don't run 24 miles next week by adding all four miles to only one day of running. There is an old myth about the “10 percent rule” of increasing mileage, which states you should only increase your mileage by 10 percent a week. However, there's nothing scientific about the 10 percent rule, so you may be able to increase by more than that if you have a strategic plan.
3. Don't increase your running mileage every week.
Run the same mileage for two to four weeks before increasing it. Give your legs a chance to fully absorb and adapt to the workload. You want 30 miles per week to be a normal experience for your body before increasing to 35 miles per week. This is especially important if you're a new runner, an older runner, or are prone to injury.
4. Don't increase the distance of your long run every week.
Most training groups make the mistake of ramping up the long runs too quickly because their training programs are only five to six months long. Therefore, they increase the distance of every long run weekly throughout the program. That's a good way for runners to get injured because the stress increases constantly without a break to rebuild. If you're running your first marathon or half-marathon and you're starting from a short run, you need to give yourself much longer than five or six months to prepare without risking injury. Repeat the same long run for a few weeks before running longer. Example: You want to feel comfortable with a 9-mile run before you try to run 10 miles.
5. Never increase your weekly mileage and the intensity of your workouts at the same time.
When you begin to include interval training and speed work into your program, either reduce the overall mileage for the week or maintain your mileage from where it was before you added the extra intensity. Your legs can handle only so much stress at once. Trying to increase your running volume while also increasing the intensity of your workouts is asking for trouble.
6. Cross train.
Yes, you can become a better, faster runner by doing other activities, such as cycling and swimming. These are great ways to give your legs a break from all that impact and keep your cardiovascular system fit. There are many sports and activities to train your upper body and take some of the load off your legs. You never know, you may even improve your running ability with a little change up!
7. Make your easy days really EASY.
The biggest mistake runners make is running too hard on easy days. This adds unnecessary stress to your legs without any extra benefit and will make it more difficult to complete a quality run on your harder days. Easy runs should feel gentle and allow you to hold a conversation (about 70-75 percent max heart rate).