In an ideal world you would learn about injury free running techniques as a beginner, not when you’ve been running a while and wondering why you keep getting injured!
Well, what we aim to do here is to provide you with a check-list of running tips and hints which will help you to avoid injury, but a prevention rather than a cure – it’s a bit like installing a burglar alarm before you get burgled – you know the chance is there so you do something about it now rather than later ;-)
So keep this list handy and remember to refer back to it now and again to make sure you are doing all you can…
Run On Different Surfaces
Running on a variety of surfaces – hard and soft, bumpy and smooth –engages more leg muscle groups, making them stronger over time and so less prone to injury. Research shows this is due to the varying foot movements on the different surfaces - if you run on pavements all the time you will use the same muscles over and over again and will likely overstrain them – so mix things up a little and run on roads, cycle paths, dirt tracks and canals – even the beach if you have one handy!
More on where to run ..?
Instead of running 5 or 6 times a week mix things up with cross training such as cycling or swimming. I only run 3 times a week but because they are intensive workouts I cross train between each run with cycling so I never run on consecutive days– this allows my running muscles to have a rest while working other muscle groups with cycling, again making my legs stronger and less prone to injury
To avoid the common running injuries start off with strength exercises which target the lower leg muscles. Calf raises, knee exercises, foot strengthening and achilles are vital for your running survival. Additionally, core exercises, quadriceps and hamstrings are important and remember to include upper body strengthening as well, this will ensure overall balance - for more information on strength training for runners click here
Plan Your Running Program
An ideal running program would consist of 3 or 4 days of running, 2 or 3 days cross training and include at least 3 days of strength training (lower and upper body). Your weekly running mileage should increase no more than 10% and 1 in every 5 weeks have an easier week than normal, this will ensure you are not overtraining and still make way for steady improvement
A Day Of Rest
Aside from everything – running, cross training and strength training – make room for at least one day of complete rest, but no more than two. This allows sore muscles to recover and you will feel more rejuvenated for your next run. This is an effective strategy for injury free running so put your feet up once every week, you’ve earned it ;-)
Find Your Running Pace
As a new beginner run at an easy pace – a pace you can run while still being able to talk in complete sentences - as you get more experienced and fitter you can push yourself a bit harder to improve fitness and performance, a bit of speed training maybe…
Good Running Form
Running with good form will likely reduce the risk of injury - but what is good running form? Fair enough question. There is so much conflicting information on the topic that it makes my head spin when I research it - this is probably the best article I've read on running form, by Steve Magness from Science of Running. Click here for an in depth look
The foods you eat help to maintain injury free running – calcium is vital for bone density which helps to avoid stress fractures and foods rich in protein will repair sore muscles after your run. Don’t underestimate the importance of a good runners diet, your body needs high grade fuel so treat it like a Ferrari :-)
Stay Light On Your Feet
Maintaining a healthy weight will help to avoid sore knee ligaments,
achilles problems and other strains and injuries. But don’t worry! - if
you could do with losing a pound here and there, running and losing
weight go hand in hand – and think of it this way, for every pound you
lose the less strain on your leg muscles and because you are lighter,
the faster you become ;-)
If you are a "normal" person and run in shoes, go for a minimalist shoe which has no cushioning or, if you prefer a little cushioning, go for one which has a neutral foot bed, one with zero heel drop. But be careful, if you go from cushioned shoe to minimalist then start off with small distances (say 1/2 mile) and increase by 1/8 mile every other run. Look at our Minimalist Running Program page for a detailed approach...
As you become more experienced your body becomes like a test-lab – you push yourself that bit harder and that bit further to see what happens to your body and then adjust accordingly – and sure enough you discover your limitations
Do this without getting injured over many years and you reach a point where you have lots of injury free running momentum behind you, which is good psychologically speaking. The longer you go without injury the less likely injury becomes - and if you do get side-lined with injury, because you are physically stronger, the injury will be less severe and so quicker to heal ;-)
So, your injury free running future can be a long and prosperous one - do as much as you can to avoid the common pitfalls highlighted here and you won’t go far wrong
And remember to stay positive! – no negative waves, man …