8 tips for injury prevention

After running casually for nearly ten years, I was never injured until I trained for my first marathon a few years ago.  Since then, I’ve been able to maintain a higher weekly mileage, but not without its ups and downs.

I’m smarter and wiser now, but that doesn’t mean I always act on that knowledge.  My grumpy shin is a great example- something  I could have avoided, but I chose to ignore my body’s signs and push through a little discomfort rather than listening to my body.  Thankfully this one was only a two week set back.  I’ve been back out on the roads this week and and am feeling good.

Sometimes I find I need the constant reminders regarding injury prevention.  These are the guidelines that work best for me:

1)      The 10% Rule  – The single greatest cause of running injuries is over-training.  If you want to build mileage, it must be done slowly.  The general rule of thumb is no more than a 10% increase in overall weekly mileage.  It’s also important to build in cut-back weeks for rest and rebuilding. 

2)      Add speed work gradually: Our bodies interpret stress both through increased mileage and increased pace, so mileage should stay about the same when you first add speed work.  It’s best to start with one hard speed session every week or every other week.  As your muscles adapt to the increased work, you can add one speed session and one tempo session per week.  Always follow hard days of running with easy days of running or cross training.

Kids can sprint day after day with no problem- most adults aren’t so lucky!

3)      Get Stronger: I used to think that running was enough strength training for my legs and avoided squats and lunges.  This worked fine for years, but when I ventured into the marathon distance, my knees began to give me trouble, largely as a result of weak supporting muscles: quads, hips, and core.  After paying more attention to overall strength, the knee pain disappeared and has never returned.

—> Side note: pay attention to any moves that aggravate the injured area. Squats are not helpful until knee pain disappears. With my shin, it took me a week to realize that push ups and planks in my bare feet were putting pressure on my shin and making it worse.  As it was recovering, I modified those exercises by placing my lower legs up on a chair or bosu ball.

4)      Cross training is another great way to work new muscles and prevent over-use and burnout.  You can continue to build your cardiovascular endurance while giving your body a break from the pounding of running.  Cycling and swimming are my favorite cross training exercises, but the elliptical, rowing machine, power yoga or hiking is great too.  Many people can run 5-6 days a week with no problem, but I’ve found my body is happiest with 3-4 days of running and 2-3 days of spinning and weights.

Wiffle ball for cross training?

5)      Rest! Plan at least one rest day every week and take it! Recovery is key to coming back stronger and ready to jump into the next week’s training.  I like to use either Fridays as a rest day when I run long on Saturday, and follow it with a recovery run Sunday. (More on recovery runs in a special guest post next week!)

6)      Love your muscles: After a run or later in the day, take a few minutes to encourage recovery by stretching, and rolling your muscles.  The stick or foam roller are great tools for massaging tired muscles and increasing blood flow for less soreness and better recovery.  Pay special attention to any body parts that are achy or sore, and use ice, compression and elevation as a preventive measure before an injury sets in.

7)      Track your training: Use a journal or an online training tool like daily mile so you can see how your mileage changes over time.  You can also use this to track how long you’ve had your shoes so you can replace them every 300 miles or so before the lack of support causes an injury.

8)      No comparing! This is a hard one sometimes, but just because another friend (or blogger!) handles 60 miles or 2 solid speed sessions a week does not mean your body will be happy doing the same.  Know your body.  Pay attention to the signs of over-training and take an extra easy day or day off before your body forces you to.

Despite knowing all the rules, I tend to break them more often than I should.  It’s a battle to make myself roll out my muscles, and I push the 10% rule occasionally.

What tips would you add? Which rules are you most likely to break?

Hop over to Jill’s for more Fitness Friday posts!

91 thoughts on “8 tips for injury prevention

  1. These are great! If only I were better at following them. The only thing I can think of to add is to listen to your body. It’s one thing to run if you’re tired, but if you are *exhausted* you should rest. It’s one thing to run through some temporary twinges, but if anything persists through a run or still hurts when you stop, you need to ease up, rest or cross-train, and maybe see a doctor. So many running injuries get exponentially worse if you try to push through the pain. It’s not worth it!
    Coco recently posted..Safety Versus ShadeMy Profile

    • Yes- I’m always trying to pay more attention to my body too. It’s hard to know which twinges are okay to run through and which aren’t, but so far every twinge I’ve run through has turned into something worse, so I’m learning to assume the worst and back off right away!
      Laura recently posted..8 tips for injury preventionMy Profile

  2. I love how you realized you needed to modify your exercises and just didnt give up. So many people I know just would of quit which only further hurts them. Over-training is a terrible thing but I think we all do it to ourselves at one time or another. I loved reading this post and it will help to remind not to over-train this week for my mud run. I will be coming back to it. Thanks.
    Lilli Toby recently posted..Down and DirtiesMy Profile

  3. I love these tips! I was in the same boat about running and strength training – I didn’t think I needed to strengthen my lower body. I still struggle with it and know I could be stronger, but I’m trying to work those move into my routine more and more.
    Sarah @ Blonde Bostonian recently posted..Five Things FridayMy Profile

  4. I really love the tip about getting stringer. Every PT I’ve seen has told me to build up my quads and get a better balance of muscle between my hams and quads. It really goes a long way in protecting your knees!

    P.S. There a little surprise for you on my blog today. :)

  5. Excellent!!!!! Agree 100% with you on all of it. One thing I might add is to rotate between 3-4 different pairs of shoes. Although a little $$$ in the beginning as you start purchasing, I have found this to be very beneficial. My coach suggested that I do this, as different shoes place the foot in slightly different positions and help to cut down on “repetitive motion” injuries.
    Allison @ Johnson Jocks recently posted..Post State Meet, Vacation Time, and Celebrity Sighting!My Profile

  6. These are great tips!!! I completely agree with strength training! I was a catcher for 13 years and never had problems with my knees. I accredit it to be crazy about my strength training! I’m most guilty of adding too much too soon!!

  7. There are some great key points here! I’m always looking for people to link to my blog. So I’m going to link yours. Since the heat is pretty crazy out here in California a Lot of runners are getting some pretty strange injuries. So we are getting together a “how to keep your running schedule in the Heat” If you have anyone has any great ideas they would like to contribute, that would be awesome. http://betheredothat.hylands.com/need-to-solve-a-problem-running-may-be-what-you-need-to-focus/
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  8. Laura, I really enjoyed reading this blog today. I think I have probably read all of those at some point, but I like the way you put them together. I will file this away and try to remember to follow the advice!!! Thanks!

  9. I am so mad right now – I follow all of these and I’m still sitting on the couch with my ice! Grrrr.

    Awesome post Laura, and such good tips. The only one I would add now is that if something doesn’t feel right, stop and get it checked – running on just makes it worse.

    I tottaly agree with Chuck – this is a post I will come back to again :-)
    Kate recently posted..Change it upMy Profile

    • You are so right about not running on it and making it worse. I know that frustration of sitting on the couch with ice! There are several other possibilities (old shoes, running on the same side of the road with a slant, etc) but sometimes we can’t pinpoint the exact cause. Hope you recover quickly!
      Laura recently posted..8 tips for injury preventionMy Profile

  10. this is great!
    i would add: don’t get hung up on what you USED to do.
    in high school we ran one hard speed workout, one tempo workout and one race every week.
    every now and then i get nostalgic and want to add races and speed work to my week, but i just can’t keep up with such stressful workouts anymore, and that’s ok! (we also had access to a whirlpool and sports medicine staff…)
    Amanda K. recently posted..Turf warsMy Profile

  11. Great post. I think it’s really, really hard not to compare yourself to others. Not so much (for me) as a jealousy thing, but just as a way to figure out what is “normal”, although that can get you into trouble too! I am also really bad about changing out my shoes; my current ones have about 650 miles on them (and this last race I did in them — I was feeling it!)
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  16. Hey Laura, lovely to see you and family are doing well. How much of your injury prevention do you owe to form? I have been dealing with plantar fasciitis off and on for 2 years now (YIKES)! I hope that once I can walk without pain, I will build back up with a greater emphasis on proper running form. I tended to drag one leg more than the other and would hop sometimes. Anyways, hope to keep reading your posts.

    • Thanks for the comment, Jung Mee! So sorry you’ve been dealing with pf- I haven’t personally dealt with it but I have a friend who did and it was a frustrating experience for her.
      Form is definitely something to consider. Have you read Chi Running? I like their description of running more efficiently. Might be helpful!
      Laura recently posted..Let’s meet for coffeeMy Profile

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