I’m going to start by saying I love running. Despite my contorted face as I put one foot in front of the other, it feels awesome. It makes me feel alive and happy. Keeps me grounded. Gives me a feeling of belonging (to a worldwide community). Lets me devour as much ice cream as I want. And I love basking in that post-run glow. Every runner has their own version of this list.
So, I want to talk about something that lies in wait on every runners’ path. Because no matter how carefully you run, an injury almost always catches up to you. Staying injury-free is a huge runner goal because it’s so important to putting in consistent training, getting those coveted gains and finishing a good race. And, of course, all of the intro paragraph.
With just a few steps, you can make sure you’re back on your feet faster than a long run in summer. But before I proceed, I should mention I’m not a doctor and if you’re injured you should seek medical advice from a trained professional. Please read the previous line again.
1. More is too much
It’s easy to dash into problems when you’re ramping up your mileage. Which runner hasn’t suddenly increased their mileage because they were feeling strong during their marathon training? Or run harder because they were running in an advanced group and couldn’t show weakness. Me, definitely me. A good rule is to increase training by no more than 10% from the previous week. Easy-peasy, right?
2. A song of fire and ice.
At the first sign of injury, take a short breather from training. Apply ice or heat packs to the afflicted area. Roll and massage the muscles and the surrounding area. Stretch. It’s always easier to manage and recover from a small niggle rather than a larger injury.
3. Less speed
Speed work and hills can aggravate most injuries. I had shin splints in 2019, and decided to do hill sprints. Yes, I sat out the remainder of the 2019 season. It’s possible to train through injury. But it means shorter easy runs and flat roads.
4. One leg at a time
Single-leg exercises are your running partner when it comes to staying injury-free. Single leg squats, glute bridges, Romanian deadlifts and leaps, build tremendous strength and stability. As you run, your leg on the ground bears all your weight and impact forces. Strengthening each leg individually helps to build stability, efficiency and proper alignment. That means fewer chances of injury.
5. Good prehab means less rehab.
Along with regular strength training, massages and foam rolling, during your normal running schedule, it helps to visit a physio and chiro. They will make certain everything’s working the way it’s supposed to. Make them your first resource, instead of a last-ditch resort.
6. Signs from the body
An injury is a sign from the body that things aren’t working or working out the way they should. Perhaps the mileage is too high, the recovery not enough. The speed sessions too much, or the strength training too little. It could mean improper body mechanics or running form. When you get this sign, listen to it. Seek expert medical help.