Tips for Staying Injury-Free for Life
Runners love swapping out war stories, and many wear their injuries as a badge of honor. But do injuries really have to be a part of the running parcel? Is it really inevitable that they happen to every runner sooner or later? Not necessarily. Here are some ways to help keep you injury-free for life.
Listen to your body
This piece of advice is clichéd for a reason: It is absolutely, 100% effective. If you take only one piece of advice from this post, then make this it. Learn to listen to your body. And learn to distinguish between laziness and your body giving you a signal that it needs a bit of R & R. But perhaps most importantly, learn the discipline to act on those signals.
Rest when your body begs you to. Switch to new shoes when your (beloved) old pair has paid its dues and your knees get niggly as a result. Switch up your slanted regular training route when your IT bands announce their disdain. Seek professional help when you suspect that you have a form or imbalance problem.
Listen and act immediately. It will save you weeks and months of injured agony.
Avoid falling into the “too much, too soon” trap
Beginner runners are notorious for doing too much too soon when it comes to running. Spurred on by a list of New Year’s resolutions and determination to turn over a new leaf, bodies are often pushed too hard too soon without allowing sufficient time for rest and recovery. This almost without exception leads to burn-out or injury, which causes frustration that is often the catalyst for throwing in the towel.
Instead, start off your running journey by following an easy run/walk 5K program. Stick to it as best you can, even if the walking portions seem unchallenging at first. These type of programs are specifically compiled in such a way that it gives your body a chance to safely and injury-free increase mileage. And once you’ve successfully completed the 5K program, upgrade to a reputable 8 or 12-week 10K program. Once again, this type of program will focus on incrementally increasing your endurance without placing unnecessary strain on your system. Be disciplined enough to stick to the program.
When in doubt, never increase your long run mileage by more than 10% per week. Also, remember to schedule cut-back weeks into your training regime. Cut back your long run distance with 50% every fourth weekend or so. This will allow your body to rebuild, recover, and bounce back stronger for the next endurance building cycle.
Don’t do too much to soon. Consider yourself warned.
Find the correct running shoes for your foot type
Finding the correct running shoe for your foot type before heading out for your first run is absolutely essential. Kicking off your running journey in that cute pair of pink stability trainers when you’re actually a neutral runner spells nothing but disaster. Trust us.
Sure, the running shoe market is overwhelming at first. But take the time and invest the money to find the perfect pair for your feet. Have a professional foot and gait analysis. Study shoe buying guides and read online reviews. Speak to the sales team at your nearest reputable, specialized running store. Get a second and a third opinion. Take the recommended pair of shoes for a test run and if something feels wrong, continue your search.
This might all sound like a lot of effort when, instead, you can simply walk into a store and grab a pair that looks nice. But trust us, it’s worth it.
Replace your running shoes often
Runners get really attached to their running shoes. Too attached. It’s generally recommended that running shoes be replaced after 300 to 500 miles of wear. But treat this as a general guideline only. Once again, listen to your body and if any new niggles pop up at around about reaching that distance, take action and treat yourself to a new pair. Let that old pair go.
Pay attention to the surfaces you’re training on
Some runners are devoted roadies, and to others trail running is the holy grail. But switching up the surfaces on which you train can play an important role in injury prevention. Plodding along the same section of slanted tar week in and week out is sure to make those IT bands grumpy. As is running clockwise around the same track on every run.
So switch things up a little. Do one of your weekly runs on grass or trails to lessen the impact on your joints. Or how about an aqua running stint every so often?
Pay attention to the surfaces that you’re training on. Your body will thank you.
Love your feet 24/7
And lastly, does your day job call for attire a bit more formal than workout gear? Then choose your working (and socializing!) shoes carefully. Six inch heels may be all the rage, but running around in those for hours on end won’t do your feet any favors. In fact, it might just do the opposite.
There are heaps of sensible, but stylish formal and semi-formal footwear options out there. Give your feet (and legs!) a break and choose wisely.
So before you start accepting injury as something that is part and parcel of the running scene, give these tips a try. You might just surprise yourself!