How to stay off the DL

I hesitate to write this post, because, of course, as soon as it goes out, I’ll get injured! But a few knocks on wood and here we go.

Compression wear is all good and well, but it won’t be the thing that keeps you from getting injured.

No runner wants to be injured. In fact, I’d say there are few things more miserable than an injured runner. I’m a pretty big believer that injuries don’t just “happen,” and that there are quite a few things we can do to avoid them. Most of the things involve smart training, plain and simple. Here, then, is what has worked for me (through some injury trial and error, trust me):

  • Keep the majority of your miles easy–I think the fastest path to injury is not incorporating enough easy miles. Speedwork is great, and necessary if your goal is to get faster. But it can’t happen more than a couple times/week.
  • Knowing when to hold and when to fold–Sometimes we get niggling pains and wonder what to do about them. Pay attention to them right away. Ice, massage, acupuncture–these are all on my front lines of defense. Usually, you can run through small pains. But if the pain is getting ever worse, it’s probably time for a little break. Often just a few days to a week will quiet things down.
  • Consider your form–if you’ve been chronically injured and know in your gut that you’ve truly followed the rules, it may be time to consider how you run and what you wear on your feet. Changing both of these have made a huge difference for me in terms of how my body feels.
  • Build a base first–don’t put the cart before the horse. If you haven’t laid down a good aerobic base, don’t try to work on your speed. There will be time for that later.
  • Don’t over-race–this goes a bit with the point above. You need solid training time before you start racing and once you do race, don’t overdo it. Racing puts a lot of strain on your systems. Pick out your key races every year and stick to them.
  • Don’t shoot too big–I hate to discourage anyone from big race dreams, but make sure you are making logical, safe jumps in race distances. Starting out with a 5k and then jumping into a marathon as your next race is a fast track to injury. Make incremental jumps and remember–you have a lifetime to fit in longer races.
  • Strength train–trust me, I hate it. But I do it because it’s proven to help prevent injuries. Twice a week ought to do you.

Put simply, I don’t think that anyone with an injury can truly look back and say they got it from not stretching enough, not wearing enough compression gear, or not foam rolling enough. Those things can all be supplemental to training (actually, I think stretching can be harmful!) but they aren’t the really important things. Focus on the biggies listed above and hopefully you can stay ahead of the game.

What tips would you add? 

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  1. says

    I love all your tips/suggestions but I’d have to say the biggest one for me is “knowing when to hold/fold”. In general, I’d guess some of us runners have a higher pain tolerance than others. I know that I tend to think that an injury isn’t a big deal if I still can run through it. But that doesn’t mean I SHOULD run through it. I definitely need to work on figuring out when to hold and when to fold!!

    The biggest problem is that I agree with ALL your tips and suggestions but when they pertain to any injury specific to ME, I might change my mind. 😉
    Kristen @ Happy Running Mama recently posted..Living with IntentionMy Profile

  2. says

    Awesome! My 2 cents…Be most careful about stretching cold muscles, always warmup before stretching and absolutely incorporate backwards running to some extent, it will strengthen your forward run.

  3. says

    Great advice and couldn’t agree with you more. I’m trying to follow all of these things but need to get busy with the strength training!

  4. says

    Great tips, same in triathon, one shouldnt jump from sprint to ironman, can it happen sure, but the chance of injury and or burnout is really high, it takes years of endurance building to natural take on the long course races in endurance sports. Sadly, too much is put on doing long distance races, I am a beleiver that everyone has their distance, whether it is a 5k, 10k,olympic triathlon, or long course. If someone never runs a marathon or an Ironman, it will not take away from the accomplishments they successfully completed.
    Scott recently posted..Weekly RamblingsMy Profile

  5. says

    I agree with everything you just said. I know exactly why I got injured now that I can look back. Obviously my form sucked which was the main culprit, but I am also awful about listening to my body. My pain tolerance is pretty high; I will run through anything. Of course know I am an over paranoid bundle of nerves. Every little ache that I feel coming on I wonder if it is going to put me out of commission for another couple of months.
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  6. says

    Great tips indeed. I’ve managed to stay pretty much injury free (touch wood) with the exception of IT band injury during first marathont training and PF this past year, thankfully both mild, caught early and short lived. I don’t do any strength training but that’s from lack of time/ability to get out but trying to incorporate some exercises at home when I can….but definitely lacking.
    Robin recently posted..My Year in RunningMy Profile

  7. says

    On the front of doing too much too soon – I think people (myself included) need to be really careful when they read blogs, Twitter, FB, etc that they try to keep up or compare. Social media is a wonderful thing but it also makes it very easy to want to up the ante and do more than you are ready for.
    Shut Up and Run recently posted..Top 5 Super Foods For RunnersMy Profile

  8. says

    So much good information in this post!!!
    Sadly, I have had way more than my share of injuries – pretty much all stress fractures. (bone density issues, I guess)
    I know that a big part of my problem is the very first item on the list – I tend to run hard all the time – I want each run to be further and/or faster than the one before (impossible, I know but….).
    After I recover from my latest stress fracture I really am going to focus on just running and not making every work-out a race!!! Thanks for the great reminder!!!
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  9. says

    I’d add….seek professional help if the advice you give doesn’t nip it in the bud. The earlier you do this, the better–if you wait until it’s not a choice, you may be in for a longer lay-off than you want.
    Terzah recently posted..Introverts and Group RunsMy Profile

  10. says

    These are great tips! Some of them I know, some of them I follow, and some of them I unfortunately ignore. I think the biggest two for me are to know when to hold and when to fold and consider your form.
    My mileage has been low for the last couple months, and I’m still dealing with niggles. I finally got new shoes this weekend and haven’t ran in them yet, but I’m looking forward to easing into them and working on my form.
    My only other tip would be to run for yourself. Don’t run a certain distance because your friends or favourite blogger do. Don’t always train with someone faster. And don’t compare your training and racing to others.
    Thanks for the great reminders!
    Abby @ Change of Pace recently posted..Some of my favourite vegan recipesMy Profile

  11. says

    Yes please! I’d like to stay off the DL this year thanks! 😉

    This has been on my mind so much lately as I’m trying to build back my running base. Frankly, I’m super scared of hurting myself again especially as I think about training for a half this year. There’s part of me that wants to jump into the training plan I would have used pre-injury but there’s also a part of me that thinks that I should just go back to a basic plan, get the mileage in and complete the race. That would be smart thing to do, huh? Can you just have a quick talk with my ego?
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  12. Stephanie says

    Thanks for this post I did an easy run Sunday and by the afternoon was having severe pain and weakness in my right leg. I’m icing and rolling. It’s better but still there. I took a rest day yesterday. I’m holding off running until completely better. I will remember this post because I know I need to strength train more. I do a core class 2x/week but I’m not sure it’s enough now.

  13. says

    Strength training is definitely something I need to get into, but I know from experience that jumping mileage too fast is a good way to get injured.

  14. says

    All excellent advise. Who knew that Kenny Rogers was talking about running instead of gambling? Strength training is a definite must. I think it’s the piece of cross-training that too many runners neglect, opting instead for running ‘substitutes’ only. Somehow I managed to stay mostly healthy throughout 2012, and I think regular trips to the gym played a big part.
    Chris@Evolving Through Running recently posted..Doomsday, 2012, and (not) DrowningMy Profile

  15. says

    Great tips! I would add sleep. This is a tough one for me because I’m a night owl and I have to get up early, but I know I’m in better shape ( physically, mentally & emotionally) when I’m getting 7-8 hours/night. I also think including immune boosting foods and, for me, supplements helps in general. I’d guess that when I’m run down my form suffers and increases the liklihood of injury. Elderberry is my best friend right now!
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  16. says

    I have to say stretching really helps me. Whenever I ignore it some old injuries come back to haunt me but when I start again they quickly fade away.
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  17. Jeff Irvin says

    I’d put this one at the top of the list:

    “Build a base first–don’t put the cart before the horse. If you haven’t laid down a good aerobic base, don’t try to work on your speed. There will be time for that later.

    Great advice right there Amanda!

    Also, get lots of sleep. This one seems to be taken for granted by most of us!

  18. says

    SUCH a great post – esp given that there are so many “new” runners out there right now. Couldn’t have said it better !!
    I will admit that I am at fault with going from 0 to 60 in race distances. I had been running most of my life (as a way to stay fit for other sports) and decided to run a marathon – having never run more than 7 or 8 miles before. And I only had 3 months. LOL. Thankfully I didn’t get injured but the pain during the race did turn me off to marathons for quite a long time (years) =)
    Michele @ Nycrunningmama recently posted..The Wind Against My WingsMy Profile

  19. says

    These are great tips! Like most runners I’ve can probably check off several of these as “mistakes I’ve learned from.” Most recently: racing too much. I wound up with plantar fasciitis weeks before the marathon I was hoping to PR in. I think the other oft over looked “rule” is slow miles, so important. We push and push and push, but our bodies need that recovery time and a recover pace. Great post!!
    Sarah @RunFarGirl recently posted..Weakness and Imbalance: Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy Appointment RecapMy Profile

  20. says

    i currently have a nagging hip pain. done the massage route and chiro-and i may be on the mend. crossing fingers- my only issue would be my form-i know i have terrible posture (not running included in this) and don’t always land mid-foot. i will say, i just had the convo with my coach about the races-i enjoy doing races-but i don’t have to RACE them. I think there is a big difference and some people don’t see that or aren’t disciplined enough to do them that way. I would much rather run 13 miles in a race than alone. :)
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  21. says

    Solid info!!
    I would say also set realistic goals. Jumping from a 5k to a marathon is probably not a super idea but either is setting unrealistic tie goals for a 1st race. Example>Just because you can run a half in 2 hrs doesn’t mean you can run a full in 4. Maybe you can but you need to look at past injuries and how you feel after running that half in 2 hrs. Make smart time goals you have lots of time to improve or think about where it wrong when you train to hard and to fast and end up on the DL.
    Missy recently posted..Oatmeal Molasses BreadMy Profile

  22. says

    These are all great points. I don’t think many of us really consider how we’re running is affecting injuries. And there’s always that tendency to do too much too soon. After two days in a row of running after almost two months off, I was really feeling sore. That was just six miles. Cheers!
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  23. Chris @ OOMFrunning says

    I really liked how you included massages because they are a great way to recover after running. I would also add cross-training to this list. Don’t be afraid to jump in a pool and swim a few laps or add some cycling into your schedule. Cross-training can be very beneficial to runners!

  24. says

    Definitely enjoyed your post…. I was reading through it whe nodding my head in agreement then I read the last one. Strength training? I definitely agree, but I try to live in denial that I have to do it! So guess where I am heading now? The gym. Thanks for challenging me and keeping me on my toes, Miss Zippy!!