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.
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?