There are two basic categories of running injuries:
- The sudden – resulting from one terrible move or tumble
- The gradual – injuries that build up over time as a result of overuse and repetition.
Based on what I’ve seen, the slow and gradual injuries impact more people, but they can be harder to prevent since it’s such a slow build (or decline, as it were). You don’t notice the harm you are doing until years later when it’s too late to do anything about it.
Be Nicer To Your Future Running Self Now
I recently passed the 20th anniversary of my first marathon, which has gotten me thinking a lot about running over the long-term.
Not just how what you do today might impact your current run or current marathon training cycle, but also how what you do today will impact your body 5 or 10 years from now.
There are a few things you can do today to make your future running self happy.
Get The Right Gear (read: shoes)
Shoes are expensive. I totally understand the desire to buy a pair that maybe isn’t the exact right pair because they are cheaper. Or wanting to buy the cuter, more colorful pair (seriously, why are my shoes always the most boring/ugliest around?)
But your running shoes are your first and your most important line of defense between your body and the pounding of the pavement (or the trail). Go to a legit and trusted running store and get help finding the right pair that will most benefit you, your running goals, your running style, and your physiology.
When you find a pair you love that works for you, buy several pairs.
You never know when your favorite shoe will be discontinued or modified. (seriously shoe companies, leave well enough alone).
Buy (and use) the right gear, your future self thanks you.
Keep A Journal
After a run, it’s easy to immediately move on to the next thing.
If you are the reflective type, maybe you’ll review your run stats on Strava or Garmin Connect.
But it’s beneficial to take a few moments after a run to consider your run and how you felt. Pay attention to what worked and what didn’t on the run.
In short, keep a running journal.
Running journals can be whatever you want them to be, but I find them to be most helpful when they go beyond the basic stats of a run. In your journal, consider including information on how you felt, what you were thinking about and what other non-running stuff is going on in your life that may have impacted your run.
After some time run journalling, you’ll begin to see patterns. How work or home stresses negatively impacts your running. Or how amazing it feels to run after a good, full night’s sleep.
And once you notice the patterns, you can make changes to your running and your mindset, which will benefit you both in the long-term and the short-term.
Keep a running journal, your future self thanks you
In more ways than one.
In Building Up Your Mileage
Don’t increase your mileage by more than 10(ish)% a week.
I don’t have the specific stats to back this up, but based on the runners I’ve worked with, the great majority of injuries to newer runners can be tied directly to doing too much too soon.
The enthusiasm of starting (be it starting running, or starting a new training cycle) is great, but be sure to keep it in check.
There is a place for speed work in your running calendar, but there also is a place for slow runs, especially for runners who are marathon training. The balance of hard/easy runs is key to a well-balanced and maintainable running plan.
Make sure your ‘easy’ runs are really being done at an ‘easy’ pace, but also note that easy is not an excuse to slack off or zone out.
These slower runs should still be intentional – running an ‘easy’ pace run can sometimes be surprisingly not easy.
Go slow, your future running self thanks you
Roll With It
Ahh… the foam roller. The runners best frenemy.
Foam rolling a few times a week will reduce muscle soreness and improve range of motion. It will help ease problems you already have and can prevent issues from arising in the future.
Full-body foam rolling is great, but also be sure to focus on your thighs, calves, and butt.
Bonus points for getting a lacrosse or golf ball to roll out your feet too.
Roll it out, your future running self thanks you
I can hear you groaning from here, but I promise, you don’t have to do too much strength work to see big gains.
You don’t need an elaborate strength routine if it’s not your thing. Simply adding in a few reps of a few key moves a few days a week can produce huge benefits.
In particular, work to strengthen your:
A massively important (and often overlooked) muscle set for runners is your butt. A strong butt is critical for the single-leg push-off movement of running and is your biggest source of power.
Try moves like single-leg bridges, clamshells, single-leg deadlifts.
Tend to hunch over as you near the end of a run? I know I do, and it’s a classic sign your core needs to be strengthened.
Moves like planks and dead-bugs are great options.
This is the obvious (but still super important) area for runners to develop strength. Quads, hamstrings, and calves are key.
Squats and lunges are classic leg strengthening moves.
Build strength, your future running self thanks you
Listen To Your Body
Your body will tell you what it needs, you just have to pay attention and obey.
It knows when it isn’t being fueled or hydrated sufficiently.
It knows when it’s on the verge of injury or needs a few days of rest.
Your body knows, you just have to listen.
Listen to (and obey) your body, your future running self thanks you