When I began to take running seriously in my late 20s, I was pretty fit from years of competitive swimming and triathlon training. While my cardiovascular system had no problem heading out for multiple hour runs, my leg muscles weren’t as prepared for the effort. Despite my enthusiasm, I also had no idea how to properly train for distance running. The result? I seemed to get injured every time I tried to ramp up my training. When I decided to go for the Olympic Trials cut in the marathon, I knew I had to figure out a way to stay healthy while running high mileage. Here are some of my personal tips for preventing running injuries. These tips may not work for everyone, but they have definitely helped me stay healthy.
Amy’s Top 5 Injury Prevention Tips
- Keep your easy days easy. I do most of my easy runs without a watch, as I prefer to run by feel and let my body dictate the pace. This might mean running slower than 8 minute pace if I’m really tired, or running alone instead of with training partners who like to run sub 7 minute miles! This allows me to recover properly for my workouts, and keeps the niggles at bay.
- Rotate your shoes. In any given week, I might wear up to five different models of running shoes. I’ll wear more cushioned trainers for recovery runs, light weight trainers for long tempos, and racing flats for track workouts. The varying models of shoes stress slightly different muscles, lessening my likelihood of an overuse injury.
- Strength train. After a few weeks of hip pain last March, my physical therapist wrote me a weight lifting plan. Since dedicating myself to twice weekly strength training, I’ve noticed less injury-like pains. While some debate the merits of strength training for runners, I’ve found it to be extremely helpful in keeping my body durable.
- Prehab is better than rehab. I discovered Active Release Therapy (ART) when I first began running higher mileage, and I currently get treated at least once/month. When I am feeling more tired than usual, I will book an extra session or two. This is not cheap, but it’s much less expensive than rehab can be! I also foam roll, stretch, and do hip and glute strengthening exercises every day. Other methods of prehab might include sports massage, chiropractor visits, or even acupuncture.
- SLEEP! If you’re anything like me, you are probably sick of reading how much sleep impacts performance. It’s not always easy to fit in 8 hours while working full time and training for marathons, but it’s worth the effort. Since forcing myself to adhere to a strict bedtime, I’ve felt much better during and after my runs. I’ve found that keeping a nightly routine (e.g. no electronics after 8pm, getting in bed at a certain time) helps me fall asleep more easily, and has increased my sleep quality as well.