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.

IMG 1781 224x300 How to stay off the DL

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. 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. This is a great post full of really helpful information. Now if there were just some way to get people to follow this truly fabulous advice. HEAR THAT EVERYONE?
    MILF Runner recently posted..Mailbag Monday #1My Profile

  3. Nice post and very true. Most injuries occur from over use in some way. My tip: train first for distance and only later for speed.
    Johann recently posted..Sabie Xperience Stage 3 ReportMy Profile

  4. These are all great tips!! I need to pay more attention to the little pains and ice before they turn into big ones! Thanks for the reminder!
    Fancy Nancy recently posted..Chase the Carrot…Rewarding SuccessMy Profile

  5. it IS form form form in all things athletic endeavors huh?
    so easily forgotten when fatigued.
    Miz recently posted..What is HOPE?My Profile

  6. Compression is definitely key for me! I always wear socks and shorts after tough runs and sometimes during.
    Kari @ Running Ricig recently posted..this is probably going to jinx meMy Profile

  7. Great advice! I’m hoping to be injury-free in 2013.
    Kristen recently posted..Ezra’s first daysMy Profile

  8. 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.

  9. 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!

  10. 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

  11. Great list, I would add to check your diet and make sure you are not sabotaging yourself that way as well.
    Kovas – Midwest Multisport Life recently posted..Power, Speed, Endurance Book ReviewMy Profile

  12. I have been so fortunate in the injury department (knock on wood) Great advise! Here’s to an injury free year!
    LisaM@RunWiki recently posted..Surrender, Trust, BelieveMy Profile

  13. 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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  14. 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

  15. 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

  16. 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!!!
    Kim recently posted..Love the Feeling AFTER you Complete a Brutal Work-Out!!!My Profile

  17. Great advise! Preach it sister!
    Kat recently posted..Motivational Tuesday – Featured Sneakers #13My Profile

  18. Amen!!! All excellent suggestions. The only other thing that I would add is SLEEP. My coach is always telling me that I need at least 8 full hours every night for recovery purposes.
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  19. 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

  20. 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

  21. Form…so important in any exercise you do! I’m always mindful of it….

    Great tips!
    Kierston recently posted..A Life in Health and Fitness: Making It StickMy Profile

  22. LOVE ALL OF THESE TIPS!! I agree Strength Training is key, helps rebuild any strength you have lost. Wise words as always.
    Krysten Siba Bishop (@darwinianfail) recently posted..Robot Heart UpdateMy Profile

  23. 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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  24. 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.

  25. Really helpful post. I would say two other things to prevent injury is the 10% rule (don’t increase your mileage more than 10% each week) and cross training to build support muscles
    Amanda recently posted..Running Pet PeevesMy Profile

  26. Great advice Amanda especially about the importance of form and strength training! I paid more attention to both last year and I know it made a big difference for me!
    Michelle @ Running with Attitude recently posted..Turning Motivation into HabitsMy Profile

  27. BUILD A BASE! This is so true! I’m the queen of pushing it without the base just because I know I can….and it never ends well :)
    Heather@Just a Colorado Gal recently posted..My Return to CrossfitMy Profile

  28. Great post and I agree with all of your points! Except a little on the stretching, although over-stretching can be harmful, I’m a big believer in the benefits of stretching. :)
    Heather @ Better With Veggies recently posted..Want to get Pretty Muddy…for Cheaper?My Profile

  29. 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.

  30. 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

  31. I also hate strength training but know that I need to do it. What kind of strength training do you do?
    Kate @ So Cal Runner Gal recently posted..I am Going to Eat Half a Gallon of Ice-CreamMy Profile

  32. I’ve learned all these things this past year with injury and plan to really focus on them and follow through with smarter training and care when I get back to running.
    Tina @ Best Body Fitness recently posted..Reward YourselfMy Profile

  33. 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!
    GreenGirlRunning recently posted..Eugene Training Day 1My Profile

  34. 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.
    Andrea recently posted..MedalsMy Profile

  35. Great tips!!! Following these general rules of thumb have helped me stay injury free (knock in wood) since last spring.
    Charlotte recently posted..Oakley Women Summit 2013My Profile

  36. 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!

  37. Ahhhh, yes. I just had to fold on my race plans. No fun!
    Tiff (@LoveSweatBeers) recently posted..Race PlansMy Profile

  38. 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

  39. 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

  40. 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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  41. Great tips!! I think “over racing” last year was a big contributor to my injury!!!! Thanks for sharing!
    Toni Church recently posted..My 2013 GoalsMy Profile

  42. I’ve learned many of these the hard way, too. Great list! I’m amazed that I stayed injury-free this cycle… sometimes I thought it was a certain peak mileage where my body started to break down, but now I’m wondering if I just needed more time to adapt to a higher level of training.
    Laura @ Mommy Run Fast recently posted..Smoothie Pancakes + Greens for kidsMy Profile

  43. 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

  44. These are really great tips. And it’s really began to dawn on me that strength training is really a big key for me. One of my biggest goals for this year is to take strength training more seriously.

    Jen recently posted..Ragnar Relay Race review Part 3: My darkest hourMy Profile

  45. Such good tips! I’m always confused on the hold and fold part…never knowing if I’m blowing it out of proportion or if I am pushing it too much. It’s the worst!
    Sheil recently posted..Can You Dig It?My Profile

  46. 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!
    Viper recently posted..Oh Yeah, the New ShoesMy Profile

  47. 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!

  48. Love the title.

    Ugh. Being injured sucks and agree that we totally do it to ourselves. We know it, too. We know we aren’t supposed to be doing what we are doing, but we are stubborn and do it anyways.

    Great reminders.
    Pavement Runner recently posted..Some New Running ShoesMy Profile

  49. Great list. I think the biggest thing for me is LISTEN to your body and scheduled in rest days. I’m a big fan of rest days from a no-injury perspective. ;)
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  50. annnnd… this is another fantastic read for my runner-kid. Gonna show him this post tonight. Thanks, woman!
    Yum Yucky recently posted..Balls to the Wall WorkoutMy Profile

  51. love your tips/suggestions! Any tips for interval runs? I’ve really been working on it and wanting to make sure I’m doing it correctly.
    marissa recently posted..It’s RAINING intervals!My Profile

  52. 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!!

  53. I would certainly add recovery to this and it goes with the smart race picking that you listed. I didn’t get injured in 2012 but I certainly had the opportunity to with 2 IMs and 2 HIMs amongst a couple other races.
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