Injuries are a part of being a runner… right? Well, they don’t have to be. Evidence shows many injuries can be prevented by making a few changes to your weekly program. Below we discuss five classic mistakes that novice and professional runner’s make when training. Follow our tips to reduce your risk of running injuries and to improve your race time!
1. Suddenly increasing training load
We see this far too often, usually in new runners or those who’ve suddenly decided to take their running seriously. One week you’re running 3 x 5km per week and the next week you’re running 4 x 15km. What happens next? Overuse injuries happen!
Running training has many variables including speed, intensity, frequency, running surface and incline/decline. If any one of these variables rapidly change, the risk of overuse injuries increases dramatically.
The key is to gradually increase each of these variables over time. Increasing your distance by 500m is probably not enough. Whilst running 5km one week and 20km the next is likely too much. Find your happy medium.
2. Running at the same speed consistently
Running the same route at 5 minutes per km four times a week may seem like a great way to stay fit and train for your next half marathon. Unfortunately this is a one way ticket to overuse injuries for most.
Consistently running at the same speed loads the same joints, tendons, ligaments and muscles. This will eventually lead to overuse running injuries such as Patellofemoral Pain, ITB syndrome, Achilles/calf pain and Shin Splints.
If you want to be injury free on race day, you need to add some variety to your training regime. Try mixing it up with some fast and slow runs, interval training and hill work.
3. Ignoring running injuries
No pain no gain right? Not quite. Pushing through injuries or pain can worsen some conditions, resulting in a lengthier recovery process and more time spent on the side lines.
A key skill all athletes need to develop is being able to distinguish between pain due to an injury and pain due to working hard! This can be difficult when you are just starting out. We suggest seeking advice when:
- You have pain that is sharp or intense.
- Pain changes your running pattern.
- Pain does not subside quickly and continues for days after running
4. Not doing strength training
Strength training is essential to being a strong, injury free runner. Training lower limb strength has been shown to reduce risk of injury and improve running economy and therefore improve performance.
Instead of running 7 times a week, run 4-5 times and add in 1-2 strength and conditioning sessions. You can even add in a strength training session after a shorter recovery run. Read our article on Strength Training For Runners to find out more!
5. Not having rest days
This one is simple, yet many people don’t seem to do it. If you run 5 days in a row, your risk of overuse injuries is much larger. Add in a couple of rest days into your week.
Rest days don’t have to equal no exercise at all. Go for a walk/hike rather than a run. Go for a very slow recovery run. Do some yoga. All that matters is that you’re giving those structures at risk of overuse a rest and allow your body to heal.