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Follow these guidelines to keep yourself off the injured list.
For over 30 years as an athlete and coach, I’ve identified the behaviors that can increase your risk of running injuries. Now I’m offering some simple adjustments you can make to avoid being sidelined. And since I’ve been practicing what I preach, I’ve not had a single overuse injury for over 30 years!
My advice comes from working with over 200,000 runners in Galloway training groups, one day running schools, Tahoe retreats, e-coaching and individual consultations. As the runners send me the results of my suggestions, I’ve adjusted the training and the rest. The current “injury-free program” is below, but I continue to look for better ways of avoiding problems and reducing the downtime due to injuries.
Remember: Never push through pain, inflammation or loss of function. If you experience any one of these, stop the run immediately. Continuing to run for another block or another lap will often produce further damage that may require weeks or months off — instead of a few days — to repair.
1. Be Careful With Speed Training
Speed workouts produce a lot of injuries. You can reduce the odds of this happening by warming up very well and doing a few light accelerations as described in my books, Testing Yourself, Year Round Plan, Half Marathon and Marathon. Other important injury-reduction factors: walking more between each speed repetition and staying smooth at the expense of time. Also, don’t strain to run a certain time — ease off slightly. This is particularly important at the end of the workout.
2. Don’t Stretch With An Injury
Stretching a tight or injured muscle or tendon will increase the damage dramatically. Even one stretch will produce tears in the fibers, resulting in a longer recovery. Stretching a muscle that has been tightened by running can injure it within a minute. Massage is a great way to deal with the natural tightening produced by running. The tightening is mostly a good thing, allowing you to run more efficiently.
Related: Exercises To Prevent Knee Pain
3. Take More Walk Breaks
The continuous use of a muscle, used the same way, increases fatigue more rapidly. Always running continuously, with fatigued muscles, will greatly increase your chance of injury. You’ll see on my website the recommended frequency of walk breaks based upon pace. If you have aches and pains already, it is best to walk more often than is recommended. The most important walk breaks are those taken in the beginning of the run, for these can erase all of the fatigue. Walk breaks will also tend to produce a faster time in all races from 5K up. The average improvement in a marathon among those who have run several without walk breaks is 13 minutes faster by taking strategic walks.
4. Go Slower On Long Runs
After 30 years of tracking injuries during marathon training programs, I’ve found that most are due to running the long ones too fast. You cannot run the long ones too slowly; you get the same endurance whether you go very fast or very slow. Slow running will allow your legs to recover very fast. The fastest that I want our Galloway training groups to run is two minutes per mile slower than goal pace. Many run 3-4 minutes per mile slower and experience very fast recovery. Also, be sure to slow down as the temperature increases (at least 30 seconds per mile slower for each five degrees of temperature increase above 60 degrees).
Related: Foam Roll To Stay Injury-Free
5. Run Fewer Days Per Week
Those who run three days a week have the lowest rate of injury. I believe that almost all runners — except for Olympic candidates and world-record aspirants — can be just as fit and perform just as well running every other day. This may involve two-a-day workouts and more quality on each day. Having 48 hours between runs is like magic in repairing damage. Those who insert a short and slow jog on recovery days (junk miles) are not allowing for complete recovery. When e-coach clients complain about lingering aches and pains, I cut them back to every other day and the problems usually go away.
About The Author:
Olympian Jeff Galloway has helped over 700,000 people improve their lives through his books, beach retreats, running schools and individual consultations. For more information, see his book ‘Getting Started’ or visit www.RunInjuryFree.com.