If consistency is the secret sauce to successful running, what is the top reason for failure? The answer, of course, is injury.
Depending on the study, about 60 to 75 percent of runners reportedly get injured every year. In other words, a higher percentage of runners will get injured this year than pro football players! The silver lining is that most running injuries are not long-term, permanent or career-ending. And the best part is that most of them can be prevented from happening in the first place.
Some of the most common injuries—IT band syndrome, plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendinitis—are repetitive stress injuries, meaning they are the culmination of repeated stress over a long period of time.
To combat injuries, you must first make sure that you’re running with sensible progressions of mileage—and mixing in both long runs and faster workouts. This removes one of the most common reasons for injuries: training errors.
Next, you should strengthen the body with runner-specific exercises to guard against the repetitive impact forces of running.
The result? You become a healthier, stronger— and faster—runner!
Training Structure 101
The first step is to not succumb to the “Three Toos” of running: too far, too fast, too soon. This might be more important than any other element of prevention.
While you can structure your running schedule in countless ways, there are universal truths every runner must remember:
- Always start where you are, rather than where you were or where you’d like to be.
- Give yourself enough time to train effectively for your goal race (rushed training is risky training).
- Build mileage gradually by adding about 5–10 percent every two weeks.
- When in doubt, sit it out! Don’t turn niggles into injuries by being stubborn.
- Every fast workout should have a purpose and be appropriate for your ability.
This is simple stuff —but often, it’s hard to execute. Many runners are Type-A personalities who need to hit a certain mileage, long run or workout split. We’re numbers people.
But training is not always linear. Nor should it be! Sometimes it’s necessary to run less overall mileage or reduce the intensity of a workout. Other times, a long run should be cut short. Listen to your body and err on the cautious side. You might occasionally lose a few miles—but that’s better than missing weeks or months of consistent training.
Strong Runners Are Healthy Runners
Once the general training structure is established, runners should then focus on getting stronger.
Running is catabolic. It breaks down muscle at high enough volumes and intensities. But strength training is anabolic. It builds muscle.
To prevent injuries, runners should focus on basic, compound movements in the gym like squats and dead lifts. These are highly specific to running and provide a lot of strength gains. But just as important, runners should include glute- and hip-oriented exercises since these two muscle groups are the main drivers of the running stride. Weakness, imbalance or poor firing patterns in these muscles are also main contributors to injuries.