As a coach, one of the questions I’m asked the most is how to prevent injuries. No one wants to stop running for any period of time if they can help it. Getting injured while training for a race is not uncommon, and while experience brings wisdom, runners of all experience and ability levels are susceptible if they’re not doing the “little” things to avoid it. While some injuries may happen out of nowhere (usually not related to running in any way), most of the running-related ones we can help to ward off by doing the following:
Gradually increase your mileage: This is a big one, especially as training begins. You should only be increasing your mileage by 10-15% each week, which means it’s important to use the correct training plan for where you are starting from and follow the gradual increase each week. If ever in doubt, be conservative as you start out – there will be plenty of miles in the summer ahead!
Keep your easy days easy: The majority of your miles will be at an easy, conversational pace. 2-3 days of your week will be hard workouts – typically a speed workout and a long run in most training plans, with another harder workout as an option. If you’re adding any heavy lifting or a challenging HIIT class to your schedule, do it on the same day as a hard running workout, so the next day is easy. The gains from our training come from giving our body time to adapt to the stress we put on it when we work hard – if we don’t have easy days, we won’t see as much progress and will likely get injured at some point. Make sure you have 1-2 rest days in your schedule, as well. While yoga or something light is okay on rest days, I highly recommend taking one day when you don’t schedule any workouts to give yourself a mental break from training.
Listen to your body: Does something feel painful and more than just sore? Take an extra day or two off! Missing a run here and there will not derail your training, and if you run on something that hurts, you risk injuring it further. I have missed a long run in almost every marathon training cycle I’ve done for this reason, including the last one when I had a big PR in my race. Don’t chance it – take a few extra days off if you need to.
Strengthen those glutes: These are your prime movers when running and if they are weak, other parts of your body will compensate. Taking 10-15 minutes 3x/week to do some glute strengthening will go a long way. I’ve written several posts (here, here, here, and here) about this with moves you can easily integrate into your training.
Foam roll: Similarly to having weaknesses in the body, if we have tight muscles, other parts of the body will compensate. Take 5-10 minutes a day to foam roll the entire leg to keep the muscles loose. Here are some tips and pictures to help.
While some injuries may still happen, no matter how much you work to prevent them, taking these actions will help to ward off most of them and make you a stronger runner in the process! Want to learn more about how you run? Join Tammy, Pacers Running and MedStar Health for an injury screening clinic this Thursday evening in DC!
Tammy Whyte is the owner and head running coach of TW Training and Wellness. She coaches a group training program in Washington, DC, which meets on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays for training runs. If you’re training for a local favorite – MCM, NAF Half, Army 10 Miler – or another fall race, check out the different scheduling options (you can opt to sign up for 1, 2, or 3 days) to get support and accountability on your training journey! The program has already started, but you can still sign up. All levels of runners are welcome! Learn more and sign up at www.twtrainingwellness.com.