Friday, February 22, 2013

preventing running injuries

I love running. I really really do. I can't believe I can truthfully say that! For the longest time I hated it, and while I haven't been able to come up with a magical formula that will turn a hater into a believer, I did attempt to provide a few ways to make yourself like running.

So here I am, a self proclaimed lover of running, and I did a silly thing called sign up for a marathon. It wasn't until I did my 20 mile run last weekend that I felt like I was really getting prepared. One thing I have been ultra paranoid about as I ramp up the mileage is preventing injuries.

Here are some tips:

1) Streeeeeetch. Taking a few minutes before and after runs can make a huge difference. If you're pressed for time like me, at least focus on your personal problem areas. Forward seated fold for hamstrings, pigeon pose for the IT band, and calf stretches are some common runner tight spots. Bonus points for doing yoga a couple days a week and, of course, the foam roller is your friend!

pigeon pose, for the IT band: photo from here
2) Ice. Even when nothing hurts. After my long Saturday morning runs, I'm icing all weekend on various parts that are sore or stiff. Shins, ankles, feet, anything! My coworkers are getting used to seeing ice packs strapped to my legs after my mid week runs. It's amazing how well this works! When I was thru hiking the Appalachian Trail, I "iced" my feet in springs and creeks each night and had ZERO feet issues, even though I was very aggressive with my mileage- covering 120 miles per week.

3) Are you taking it too fast? Doing too much too fast is pretty much the most common way to getting an injury. Plan out your weekly mileage to make sure you're not increasing more than your body is ready for. A good rule of thumb is the 10% rule: Never increase your mileage or intensity by more than 10% per week. Maybe you've been running 10 miles per week and want to increase- the next week, just try 11. If that's fine, the next week try 12. It seems really slow, but your body will thank you for it. I'm finding with my marathon training that I'm having to actually reduce the number of days I run. Normally, I run 2-3 times during the week, and then a long Saturday run of 13-15 miles. My weekly total is between 32-38 miles. For marathon training, my long runs are much higher, between 16-20. In order to keep my legs happy, I'm running twice mid week, plus my long Saturday run, making my weekly mileage total between 36-40. My weekly mileage is just a tad higher, so increasing my fitness level, but not over training and hurting myself. If you do find that you're having some pain...

4) Take off when you need it. Nothing makes me crankier than taking unplanned days off of running. Switching up your workouts with cycling, weight training, or classes at the gym can ease up your achey runner joints.  If you're injured more than just what a few days will heal, maybe an extended break is needed.

5) Evaluate shoes or gait. If all of the above isn't working, maybe you need a different or better pair of running shoes. A good running store will have experienced employees who will put you on their in-store treadmill to evaluate your running style and match you to a good shoe. Or, maybe you have issues with your form that's causing you trouble.

Brooks PureConnect 2: image from here

Of course, any prolonged pain or discomfort should be addressed by your doctor. But hopefully, by following these steps you can avoid injury and run with happy legs and feet!


  1. Thank you for sharing these pointers, Mackenzie! I’m sure a lot of runners out there would find this post quite beneficial. If I may add, one should also listen to their body. Our bodies have limits that we need to heed. Pushing your limits can result to a much bigger problem. I say build up slowly and have a smart running schedule to determine how much you should be running.

    1. Definitely! As disappointing as it can be to realize your body has limitations, your intuition is usually right! Thanks for sharing.