I haven’t been injured in 10 years. Not once. And I’m proud of it.
I wasn’t always this healthy. Twenty years ago, I was injured a lot. But since I depend on running to boost my mind, give me energy and melt away stress, I worked hard over the years to become injury free.
These days, I’m living proof that you don’t have to accept aches and pains as you age. You too can be injury-free after 40 years of running. Here’s what has worked for me
1. Watch Your Mileage
Most runners keep their weekly mileage within a safe range most of the time. Two or three times a year, however, many of us get too fired up and increase the total too quickly. This happens when we come back after a layoff.
Any sudden mileage increase exceeding 10 percent per week will increase your injury risk. To avoid injuries as you add on the miles, take an extra day off from running each week. Then add those extra miles to a long-run day. By making each run longer and resting more, you receive a better training effect, as well as quicker healing.
2. Rest Every Three Weeks
Even if you safely stick to no more than a 10 percent weekly mileage buildup, your body could use a break every three weeks. You have to stop running. But for one week, cut back your mileage by 30 to 50 percent to reduce buildup of your fatigue and damage.
3. Always Warm Up
Always. After a 5 minute walk, walk and jog for 5 more minutes, then jog slowly for 5 more minutes more, so you’re basically warming up for the first very slow mile of your run. Transition into a faster pace with four to eight short accelerations, walking or jogging for 1 to 2 minutes after each one. As your legs warm up, you can increase the pace slightly on each acceleration. By the last one, you should be running your goal speed for the day.
4. Do Hills Before Speed.
If you haven’t been doing speed drills, don’t suddenly run 10 hard laps around the high school track. In fact, don’t even run one lap. Instead, find a 100 to 200 meter hill and run up it three to four times once a week for three to four weeks. During this period, start mixing four to eight one-block accelerations into your regular runs. Both techniques will build the strength needed to safely complete speed sessions.
5. Consistently Run Fast
When you’re ready to start track work, commit yourself to it. If you only do sporadic speed sessions, your body will never adapt to faster running. On the other hand, doing too much speed can also leave you prone to injuries. Here’s the magic formula: one speed session per week.
When you do a speed session, warm up thoroughly first. Never run all out. Be sure to slow down or stop the session at the first sign of extreme pain. Begin with three to five 400 meter surges. Run no more than 5 to 7 seconds faster per quarter mile than your 5K race pace, and walk half the distance of your speed session to recover.
6. Stretch at Night
Many runners make the mistake of vigorously trying to stretch out the tightness brought on by exertion and fatigue. Problem is, stretching a tired muscle too much can tear muscle fibers and increase recovery time. So its best to avoid extreme stretching immediately before and immediately after running (one exception: gently stretching your iliotibial band on the outside of each leg can help prevent knee problems).If you do stretch after running, do so very gently, and do the majority of your stretching before you go to bed.
7. Keep Your Stride Steady
Avoid the temptation to increase stride length at the end of long runs, races or speed sessions. This puts more pressure on already tired muscles and doesn’t accomplish your goals. Quicker turnover of feet and legs is the key to faster running.