Injuries are pretty much runners worst nightmare. A runner, not running is liable to be cranky, irrational, edgy and yell at you for how you are chewing your food. It’s not pretty. And frankly, everyone suffers under such a burden.
Now sometimes injuries are unpreventable. It’s just a random thing. You know where most accidents happen? In the home. You are far more likely to injure yourself in your own house than when you are out on a run. But regardless, the point is not everything is preventable, but some things are. And instead of spending 4 weeks rehabbing an injury or even 6 months here are some things that you can do to help make sure you aren’t sidelined with an injury or if you are, it’s not for too long.
1. Running Form
In my opinion a huge amount of injuries are caused from poor running technique. Specifically, over-striding. There is a tendency to do this on faster runs. So train yourself to continue to use the same short stride you would on an easy run for your speedwork. Your feet should be striking the ground underneath your body – not in front of you.
2. Training Load
There are a few aspects of training load that can see you heading down injury lane. One is increasing your distance too quickly. If you are building up your distance you want to do that slowly. While you are building, every 4 weeks or so you also want to have a lighter week to help your body recover. But the other more important aspect of training load is the mix of high intensity/medium intensity and low intensity runs on your schedule. The temptation is to think ‘oh well I’m only running x amount per week so therefore I can skip some of the easy runs and just focus on the tempo and intervals’ But in my opinion that’s a fast track to injury town. Instead you want to focus on your maximum intensity runs being only 10% of your total running. So if I usually run 60km in a week, then the maximum amount of time in that week I should be spending on intervals is 6km.
3. Cross Training
There are plenty of ways in which cross training can not only benefit your running, but also help you to stay healthy. For example, a huge problem in runners is inactive glutes. Things like CrossFit or Cycling are great at really working some of those under-worked muscles and keeping you injury free. It also gives you an activity to keep you moving while resting the muscles that you use for running. An all round win.
But really, what I think is the huge benefit of cross training is that when things go pear shaped and you do get injured, you have a back up plan to keep you moving. Which is so important for your mental health as well as your physical health.
You can’t skip it. Most people when they start exercising would need at least 2-3 full complete days of rest, and even once you’ve built up your fitness you still need 1-2. A huge amount of the work is done by you taking your rest days. It’s not just to allow your body time to repair but it’s also so you go into your workouts rested and able to give it your best.
5. Know Thyself
Some days you know that you just need to get out there. And some days you really need to listen to your body. Working that out takes some time. But eventually you get really good at it. The other morning I was going to skip crossfit because I was still a bit sore and the Melbourne Marathon was in ten days so I thought I will just take it easy. I went for a run that was really slow to nurse my sore muscles through it. But I felt so good afterwards I was thinking I could definitely go to crossfit! Be wary of that! Endorphins have a way of lying to you. And then as I was going back I could feel how twingy my quads were and there was NO WAY going to Crossfit was a good idea. So I stayed home.
6. Speed. Don’t Waste It.
Do your easy runs SLOW. Slower than you think you should. Save your speed for your tempo and your intervals. Do not waste that effort on your long runs or your easy runs. And it is a waste. That kind of middle of the road speed is not fast enough to benefit your fitness and it’s not slow enough to benefit your fitness either. It’s training in the grey zone. And you want to avoid that.
More importantly, you want to get some distance in your legs with the least risk of injury or impact to your body. So do it slow.
7. Make Adjustments
Everyone is different. I like to do a recovery run after a long run but for plenty of people that’s a fast track to injury. You need to listen to your body and make adjustments as to what works for you. Your ideal might be running 5 days or it might be running 3. It might be doing no speedwork at all. Or it might be doing medium runs instead of long runs.
8. Listen to Your Coach
LISTEN. When they say take it easy. Take it easy. When they say go to the physio. GO. When they express concerns about something, LISTEN. Because it’s usually coming from experience.
9. Prevention is Better Than Rehab
I’ve been injured and had to rehab and retrain and it basically sucks. So a big part of my job is to make sure that doesn’t happen to other people. It’s a whole lot easier to nip something in the bud before it turns into something major. Now, I know that going to Doctors or Physios is inconvenient and sometimes expensive and usually if it’s something you can avoid you will but the sooner you go, the less likely you are to spend the next six months going to the physio.