Quick and Dirty Tips to Prevent Running Injuries for Good
By Jason Fitzgerald
Photo by Greatist
Jason Fitzgerald is a 2:39 marathoner and USA Track & Field certified coach. Get the latest training tips at Strength Running— or sign up for two free presentations on injury prevention to help you stay healthy.
Despite the fact that runners aren’t repeatedly tackled and buried under piles of bodies and equipment, the numbers tell us that they’re hurt almost as frequently as pro football players. But why are roughly 56 percent of runners nursing injuries each year? The answer is simple: Most runners just don’t train properly. Perhaps because running is a straightforward, natural movement, many people don’t think it requires instruction or attention to technique. But just like a deadlift or football tackle, running properly is a skill that has to be learned. Running fast or far without decent instruction increases risk of injury.
Related: The Ultimate Guide to Running Lingo
Consistent, injury-free running is what I call the “secret sauce” of good training. With it comes happier running, better training, and faster finishes Fortunately even novice runners can learn how to structure their training to prevent injury. After working with thousands of runners, I’ve learned that there are three main ways to stay healthy, and the best part is that they’re all super easy to implement.
Stay Healthy for the Long Run — Your Action Plan
1. Don’t be boring. Most running injuries are caused by repetitive stress, or repeated use of the same part of the body. When training plans lack variety, injury risk increases because the athlete is taxing the same part of the body in the same way over and over. As a coach, I review runners’ training programs every single day. And after looking over nearly a thousand plans, I’ve noticed that most training is boring. I see the same distances run at the same paces, over the same loop, in the same shoes.
Cut your injury risk and increase the likelihood of becoming a runner for life by introducing more variety into your routine. For example:
- Do more trail running. The frequent turns, elevation changes, and uneven terrain force you to subtly alter your stride.
- Rock some new kicks. When you rotate between two or three different pairs of shoes, each pair will slightly change your biomechanics (like head position, stride length, and how your arms move when you run) which helps reduce repetitive stress.
- Pick up (and slow down) the pace. Be sure to incorporate a variety of paces into your weekly training. Your training plan should include everything from slow recovery runs to maximum intensity sprints.
- Start strength training. A variety of strength exercises will correct imbalances and help you get stronger.
2. Practice proactive recovery — and don’t push it. Most runners consider recovery to be a reactive process: It’s the ice baths, self-myofascial release, and compression socks that you use after you already feel sore. But proactive recovery methods are even more effective at reducing injuries by ensuring you don’t inflict too much damage in the first place. Practice proactive recovery by adjusting your workouts based on how you’re feeling day-to-day. Sometimes you might need to take a day off, cut your mileage, or slow down the pace. Remember: All of your workouts should be right for your fitness level and how you’re feeling that day.