Injuries are very common in running. The good news is that the vast majority of injuries (60 to 72 per cent) are due to errors in training planning, so they can be avoided. Obviously, when you want to progress and perform at a high level, you push your body to its limit, increasing the risk of injury, but there are still a few little tricks that can help you progress in running without getting hurt.
- Gradually increase the distance run each week.
You should only increase the volume of running you do each week by a maximum of 10 per cent. So, if this week you have run 50 km and you want to increase your running volume, you can run up to 55 km next week. More than that may increase the risk of injury.
- Run twice in the same day
When you have a large volume of running each week, you might want to split things up by running twice in the same day (two smaller sessions) rather than doing a single long session.
For example, if you run 90 km a week and you have a day off, it means that you have to run an average of 15 km per day. Instead of running 15 km in a single session, you could run 10 km in the morning and 5 km in the evening. You will have time to recover between the two sessions and it will be much less taxing for your body, so it will decrease the risk of injury.
- Run longer over two consecutive days
When training for a long-distance triathlon or marathon, Sunday is usually the day we set aside for a long run. As training progresses, those Sunday outings get longer. A very long run can be very taxing on the body. So, rather than running three hours on Sunday, for example, you could run 90 minutes on Saturday and Sunday, or two hours on Saturday and 90 minutes on Sunday. This allows you to accumulate as much volume, or even more. On Sunday, even though you had an evening to recover, your legs will still be tired, so even if your race on Sunday is shorter, you will enjoy similar benefits to having done one long run on Sunday.
- Do your interval sessions when you’re well rested
Interval training is important for you to progress. On the other hand, the faster you run, the greater the impact on your muscles, bones and joints. Make sure you are well rested for the very intense sessions, so that you can properly handle the demands of the workout.
- Change shoes when they get worn out
Your shoes help absorb some of the impact with each stride, but an older shoe won’t be as effective. It is generally recommended to change shoes after 500 to 800 km. Obviously, each shoe is different, so some shoes will wear out faster than others. So, take a look from time to time to notice signs of wear on your shoes.
- Take the time to warm up
It is important to take time to warm up well, even for low-intensity workouts. You can walk for a few minutes, then jog, then run at the desired intensity. It’s even more important to warm up well for interval training. Before the first interval begins, gradually increase the intensity to that of your intervals so that your body is prepared to run at this effort.
- Run slowly
Sometimes, to run fast, you have to know how to run slow. If we run all our sessions, including our recovery workouts at a high intensity, we risk injury since we do not allow our body to recover. Kenyans often run two to three times a day, but when they are doing a recovery session, they run very slowly to allow their bodies to recover from the morning session, or to prepare their bodies for the next session later in the day.
- Run on a variety of surfaces
Try to vary the types of surfaces you run on as much as possible and avoid running only on asphalt. More forgiving surfaces such as gravel or grass absorb part of the shock from each stride.
- Incorporate strength training into your program
Strength training not only helps you perform better, but also reduces the risk of injury. A suitable strength plan for running will also help you maintain good posture when you are tired, for example at the end of a full-distance race.
- Listen to your body
Our body is an amazing machine, but like any machine, it needs maintenance. When the Check Engine light flashes on the dashboard of your car, you try to find the problem and we go to the garage. On the other hand, when our body’s Check Engine light flashes, we often wait for smoke to come out of the engine before we get to the garage. Rather than waiting for minor pains to get worse and become a major injury, it is better to try to resolve the problem immediately. Sometimes it is better to take a day off when a little pain has appeared than to continue running and have to take a month without running because the injury has worsened.