Words by: Matt Fitzgerald, Lead PEAR Sports Coach and Pacer.
Injuries are all too common among runners. If you’ve been running for more than a year, you’ve probably suffered at least one so-called “overuse” injury such as shin splints or runner’s knee. Fortunately, doctors, coaches and scientists have learned a lot about what causes running-related injuries and how to prevent them. Use the following five tips to maximize your chances of making it to the starting line of your next Lexus LaceUp Running Series event 100 percent healthy.
- Obey the 10 percent rule.
Most injuries occur when runners are increasing their mileage. The body is capable of adapting to higher training loads, but it needs time. The 10 percent rule is a way of giving the body the time it needs to adapt to longer and more frequent runs. To practice the 10 percent rule, simply avoid increasing your weekly running mileage by more than 10 percent from week to week. For example, if you run 20 miles this week, don’t run more than 22 miles next week.
- Wear comfortable shoes.
Wearing the right running shoes for your unique foot type and running style will reduce your injury risk. How do you find the right shoes for you? Believe it or not, research shows that comfort is the most reliable guide. Runners who choose the most comfortable shoes to run in have the lowest injury rate. Next time you’re ready to buy some new kicks, try out a large selection and choose the pair that feels best on your feet.
- Get stronger.
A number of common running injuries are associated with weakness in particular muscles. For example, runners who develop runner’s knee tend to have weak hip muscles. A well-designed functional strength-training routine will eliminate your muscular weak links and reduce your injury risk. It doesn’t take much: Just a couple of 20-minute full-body strength workouts per week will do the trick.
- Run on soft surfaces.
The main reason overuse injuries occur more frequently in running than they do in other repetitive-motion sports such as cycling is that running is a high-impact activity. Reducing impact forces is therefore an effective way to reduce injury risk. And one way to reduce impact forces is to avoid running on the hardest surfaces—namely asphalt and concrete—and instead run on softer surfaces such as dirt, grass and even some treadmills whenever possible.
- Listen to your body.
Most overuse injuries start off as minor sore spots. If you respond to these warning signs quickly and aggressively, you can prevent most of these sore spots from becoming full-blown injuries. Listen to your body: Whenever you experience abnormal soreness during a run, stop immediately. Replace your subsequent runs with non-impact cardio activities such as elliptical training that you can do pain-free to maintain fitness while your body heals. Do a short test run every other day or so to see how your sore spot is doing. When it’s gone, you can resume your normal run training.
It is not possible to prevent all running-related injuries. But it is possible prevent many of them. The five tips I’ve just given you have worked for many runners and they will work for you too.
** Matt Fitzgerald is an acclaimed author, world-class running and triathlon coach, and sports nutritionist. His mission is to inspire, educate, and help athletes and fitness enthusiasts achieve their goals. His books include Racing Weight, Diet Cults, The New Rules of Marathon Nutrition, and many more. He will be the lead pacer at each location of the Lexus LaceUp Running Series presented by Equinox.