The last thing any runner wants is to be sidelined from an injury. Luckily there are ways to stay injury free and decrease your chances of needing to take an unexpected time out from training.
Make sure you have the right shoes for your feet
It is worth getting your running shoes from a running store where they have the knowledge to assist you in finding a shoe that is right for your foot. Having a shoe that fits well will not only help prevent injuries, but will likely allow you to enjoy your runs more. Depending on how often you are running, you may want to consider rotating between two pairs of running shoes as it takes about 24 hours for shoes to fully bounce back after a run. Alternating shoes can help avoid muscular imbalances by slightly varying how stress is distributed throughout the body. It is also worth getting an assessment for orthotics as they can help with common issues such as overpronation to further prevent injuries and add comfort to your running. If you are interested in getting assessed for orthotics, Dr. Barone is able to perform a gait scan to determine your need for them.
Increase Mileage and Intensity Gradually
Most injuries are caused by overuse. It can be tempting to increase training load in hopes of further improving fitness, but with this comes a significant risk of injury. The body needs time to adapt to increased stress placed on it. When making changes to the amount of running you are doing, make sure that you are increasing exclusively intensity or volume. Changing both of these factors simultaneously is where you are going to run into problems. Another thing to be mindful of is the magnitude and frequency at which intensity or volume is increased. This is an area that is highly debated and will vary among runners depending on factors such as running experience and injury threshold.
The equilibrium method developed by Jack Daniels is well formulated to prevent injuries. The equilibrium method works so that mileage is increased every 3-4 weeks and then kept constant, allowing the body to adapt to the added stress. The amount you increase your mileage by will depend on your current mileage as well as how your body is handling your present training load. At the end of the day, being conservative with increases in mileage will allow you to stay consistent with your training. Consistency is going to achieve better long term results than being forced to take gaps in training due to injuries. Listening to your body is the best thing you can do to avoid over training and injuries.
Keep it interesting
Running can be repetitive and hard on the body. It is a good idea to keep things varied in your training by running at a variety of paces. In addition, try to run on multiple training surfaces and rotate between different routes to ensure that your body is not repeatedly experiencing the same forces. You can also mix up your training by incorporating hills into your routine in order to build strength and change the muscle groups that are being worked. It is important to engage in activities other than running in order to stay injury free. Cross training should be incorporated into your training plan at least once per week. It is best to choose low impact activities such as swimming or cycling. This will help you continue to improve your fitness while allowing your body to recover from the impact of running. Cross training is also a good tool to use in order to avoid burnout.
The importance of strength for runners cannot be emphasized enough. With adequate strength comes better form and a greater ability to produce force. As a result, you will likely be capable of running faster. Developing strength is also a great way to prevent injuries. Improving strength can be achieved by weight training or performing body weight exercises. Yoga is also a great option, as it will improve both strength and flexibility. Core strength in particular is important for runners in order to maintain proper form. Ensuring that you are strengthening all muscle groups will help prevent muscular imbalances and injuries.
Allowing time for proper recovery is vital to staying injury free and allowing your body to reap in the benefits of training. It is during recovery that training adaptations occur, so not allowing enough time to rest can leave you stuck in an over training zone. Taking days off from training are important in order to properly recover. On top of rest days, the majority of your runs should be at a controlled and comfortable pace with harder efforts spread throughout the week. This will allow you to feel energized each workout and ready to put in a solid effort. During recovery time between workouts, techniques such as foam rolling and stretching should be implemented. Regular massage or chiropractic care can also be beneficial to the prevention of injuries.
Recovery becomes of utmost importance during the racing season. During this time your training plan has ideally allowed you to reach your peak fitness, and your focus can switch to feeling ready to perform at your best. During racing season, tapering by decreasing your training load is a smart move in order to stay healthy. As well, taking time off from training altogether is necessary from time to time in order to recover from long periods of consistent training. It is best to take time off at the end of racing season for at least one week. This will allow you to focus on other things in your life that you enjoy and