Avoiding running injuries is something that we all strive for. Nobody goes out on their run planning for their knee to tweak, or to roll their ankle. If you’re like me, you’re naturally uncoordinated anyways. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten too close to the edge of the sidewalk and fallen off into the grass. Luckily, injury hasn’t happened…yet.
More than half of all runners experience at least one injury per year. This could be minor, or it could lay you up for months. While it seems avoiding running injuries may be, well, unavoidable, there are some things that you can do to put the odds in your favor.
This could be some light stretching, a 10-minute walk or a gentle, easy jog. The point of it is to warm up your muscles, so when you start to move faster, your muscles are ready to perform. Another plus of warming up is that you’ll have an easier time running further. I noticed that on days that I skip the warm-up, I run slower and grow tired much faster.
2. INCREASE MILEAGE SLOWLY
If you are looking to increase your mileage per run, increase it in small increments over weeks or even months. Upping your mileage too quickly is one of the most common reasons for running-related injuries.
Many experts recommend the 10 percent rule for increasing mileage. That is, every couple of weeks, increase how many miles your feet pound the pavement by 10 percent. So if you’re running 20 miles one week, go to 22 miles 2-3 weeks later. It is also recommended to spread out those additional miles throughout your weekly runs. This means that if you run 4 days per week, up your daily miles by 0.5.
If you’re a more experienced runner, you can probably increase your miles more quickly without any issues. This is because, as a seasoned runner, your legs are already conditioned for longer distances.
On another note, always go at a speed that is comfortable and sustainable for you. Some runners are naturally faster, and others are naturally slower. At the end of the day, a mile is still a mile. There is no need to compare yourself to others along your journey. If it’s something you’re able to do, hire a training coach to set up a plan customized for you.
3. SET REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS FOR YOUR LONG RUN
Another biggie for avoiding running injuries is to not make your long run the bulk of your weekly training plan. If you run 20 miles per week, don’t do two 2 mile runs, then run the remaining 16 in one shot. In a perfect world, your long run will be about a third of your weekly training plan. While this may not always be possible, it is important to break down your miles in a way that you aren’t putting all of the stress on your body in one go.
4. RUN WITH GOOD FORM
Like with anything, good form while running makes all the difference in the world when it comes to avoiding running injuries. Along your route, make a mental note to check your posture. Make sure you are not slouching, leaning forward, or keeping your shoulders tense and tight.
5. PICK MILEAGE OR INTENSITY, NOT BOTH
When going out for your run, don’t do too all at once. When training, you should be picking to work on intensity (speed), or mileage. Trying to focus on both at the same time puts too much pressure on your body.
When I did my first half-marathon in April (virtual), I had never done 13.1 miles in one go before. I knew if I was going to make it to the end, I would have to slow down. There were definitely more hills along my route than I would have liked (stupid hills!), and I admittedly walked up those suckers. I definitely didn’t set any personal records for a mile, but I finished. Had I pushed myself to be faster while doing my longest distance to date, I probably would have twisted an ankle, tripped over the sidewalk, or pulled some other muscle.
6. BE SURE TO TAKE YOUR REST DAYS
I have an entire post on this topic. If you’d like to read it, it can be found on Why Taking a Rest Day from Running is Important.
In short, rest days give your body, and your muscles time to recover in between run training sessions. Additionally, taking a rest day will help you to perform better throughout your training. These combined can help you in avoiding running injuries.
7. GET THE RIGHT SHOES
I’ve said it before, but finding the right shoes is super important. Ideally, you’ll want to visit a running specialty store to get fitted. Even if you don’t purchase anything from the running store, they should be able to give you shoe advice. They’ll be able to tell you if you overpronate (roll your feet inward significantly) or supinate (your feet don’t roll enough). After knowing the types of shoes that will work best for you, you can do your own research. Once you find a brand/style that feels right, it is best not to deviate from it.
If you’re like me, though, you’re impatient and will want to leave the running store with comfortable new running shoes. What can I say; waiting has never been my strongest quality! Haha.
From personal experience, after getting fitted, I had no more tightness in my legs, pain in my feet, and my running became so much better. I swore by getting fitted so much that I annoyed my husband half to death until he finally went. He says that the comfort from a good pair of shoes is something he didn’t know was missing because he’d just gotten used to his old shoes.
Avoiding running injuries is something that we all want. Unfortunately, as runners, we are all likely to face an injury at one point or another. By training smart, we can all lessen the chance of it happening, or at least the frequency. Take your rest days, increase your miles slowly, and above all, listen to your body. Get out there, give it your best, and try not to fall off of the darn sidewalk!