Getting injured can be part of who we are as runners, but it shouldn’t come to define our identity. There are ways you can adapt your training and lifestyle to carry on running injury free for longer, meaning you can have less disruption and hopefully better results. Here are our top tips to avoid injury, stay stronger and run longer and faster.
It can be monotonous and heavy going on your body to keep training relentlessly in the same way month after month, even if you have some clear goals outlined within that time frame. Periodising training means working your running and training cycles into clear chunks towards specific goals. Looking at each phase as a build up, then peaking towards fitness, a goal race or event and including specific ‘down’ weeks to let yourself recover and taper (reduce training volume to freshen up before a race) will not only help you to get fitter, but to avoid injury too. Working with a coach can really help you to plan your training in this way.
Whether you’re starting out as a new runner or you’re building your distance towards a longer race, keep the 10% rule in mind. You will often see this mentioned where it’s suggested you only ever increase the distance of your long run each week by 10%, but keep in mind your overall mileage too. Keep track of how far you’re running each week using a run tracker like Strava and ensure you’re not relentlessly piling the miles on by more than 10% each week.
Running is repetitive, and the repetitive nature can mean you’re adding the same stresses through your body in areas where it may be weak. As runners, often all we want to do is run, but it really pays off to find something different to do to keep active at least once a week. Cross training makes you stronger in different areas and other muscle groups that can help you to avoid injury. Look at Pilates, cycling and swimming and see where you can add them to your routine.
Rest is often overlooked as a performance tool, but it’s as you’re sleeping or resting that your body is doing the best work to repair itself and adapt. Make sure you’re taking the time to plan one complete rest day a week. Allow yourself time to recover from hard workouts and long runs by planning where they fit best to allow rest afterwards in your week. Allowing adequate recovery is hugely important in your defence against injury.
Many runners arrive at being injured because they’ve done too much too soon. The process of training takes time, and trying to jump ahead like you are cramming for an exam will only end badly. Insufficient build up is an easy way to pick up an overuse injury like shin splints or runners’ knee which will stop you, quite literally, in your tracks. Make sure you build up gradually and respect the process of training and recovery.
You know your body, you’re the only person who lives in it. Every runner has aches and pains when they start a run that eventually disappear when they settle in. If something continues to linger after you’ve warmed up, or you’re experiencing sharp pain that you’re struggling to run through, it’s time to back off. It’s much better to take time and recover from a niggle than to struggle through something and make it worse. Get to know your body well and be kind to it.