5 Keys to Running Healthy and Staying Injury-Free

AVOID THE TERRIBLE TOO’S. Doing too much, too soon, too fast is the number-one cause of running injuries. The body needs time to adapt to increases in mileage or speed. Muscles and joints need recovery time so they can handle more demands. If you rush that process, you could break down rather than build up. So be the tortoise, not the hare. Increase your weekly and monthly running totals gradually.

Follow the 10 percent rule: Build your weekly mileage by no more than 10 percent per week. So if you run 16 kilometres the first week, run 17.5 kilometres the second week, about 19 kilometres the third week, and so on. There may be times when even a 10 percent increase proves too much. Use the 10 percent rule as a guideline, but realise that it might be too aggressive for you.

LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. Most running injuries don’t just come out of nowhere and blindside you. Usually, there are warning signs—aches, soreness, and persistent pain. It’s up to you to heed those signs. If you don’t, you could hurt something else as you try to change your gait to compensate for the pain.

GET GOOD SHOES. Running shoes have changed a lot over the years, and there’s a dizzying variety of models, brands, and types to choose from. There are even minimalist shoes designed to mimic barefoot running (although there’s no scientific evidence that forgoing shoes decreases injury risk).

There’s no single best shoe for every runner—your goal is to find the one that offers the best support and fit for your unique anatomy and biomechanics. Don’t buy a shoe just because it’s the cheapest, because it “looks fast,” or because it matches your favorite workout gear.

You should replace your shoes every 500 to 800 kilometres. Note the date that you bought your shoes in your training log so that later you’ll know when it’s time for a change. And when it’s time to buy, visit a specialty running store—the staff there will ask you lots of questions, watch you walk or run, and take other steps to help you find the right shoe.

TAKE GOOD NOTES. A detailed workout log can help keep you motivated and injury-free. Take some time after each workout to jot down notes about what you did and how you felt. Look for patterns. For instance, you may notice that your knees ache when you run on consecutive days, but you feel great when you rest in between running days. This will help you determine the best routine for you. Plus, it will help get you out the door when the going gets tough. You can draw confidence from seeing all the miles pile up. And the next workout doesn’t seem as daunting when you see how much you’ve already accomplished. There are lots of online training logs available, like the one here, but a notebook and a pencil work just as well. Here are some data that you should consider including in your training diary:

  • Daily or weekly goal
  • Mode of exercise (run, elliptical, swim, bike, etc.)
  • Distance (in miles or kilometers)
  • Workout time in minutes
  • Weather conditions
  • Time of workout (this can influence how you feel)
  • Route and terrain (hills, treadmill, track, trail)
  • How you feel before, during, and after the run
  • Shoes and gear used
  • Music
  • Interesting things you saw along the way
  • Notes about the people you ran with

Find more information on training logs here.

CROSS-TRAIN. Running is hard on your body, there’s no doubt about it. So experts agree that most runners can benefit from cross-training activities to help improve muscle balance and stay injury-free. Swimming, cycling, elliptical training, and rowing will burn a lot of calories and boost your aerobic fitness.

Keep It Safe

Cross-training can help you stay fit when you can’t run, but choose wisely, says runner and sports podiatrist Stephen Pribut, D.P.M., of Washington, D.C. Some activities may worsen an injury. Below is a list of common running injuries and what cross-training activity is safe to do with the injury’s symptoms.

  • Runner’s Knee– Swimming and depending on the severity of the injury, stationary bike and elliptical can be safe activities.
  • IT-Band Syndrome (ITBS)– Swimming and depending on the severity of the injury, stationary bike, elliptical and rowing machine can be safe activities.
  • Calf Strain/ Achilles Pain– Stationary bike, elliptical, swimming, and rowing machine
  • Plantar Fasciitis– Stationary bike, elliptical, swimming, and rowing machine
  • Shin Splints– Swimming and depending on the severity of the injury, stationary bike can be safe.
  • Stress Fractures– Swimming and depending on the severity of the injury, stationary bike can be safe.


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