7 Running Tips to Avoid Injury
By Marnie Kunz
Recently I was talking about common mistakes we see in runners we coach with my friend Mariel, a fellow running coach and ultra runner extraordinaire. And there were quite a few running mistakes that seem to be repeated by many runners, some that I’ve done myself in my training as well (ahem, getting over excited and doing too much). Whether you’re training for the NYC Marathon, the Chicago Marathon, or are going to run your first 5K race, here is a list of 7 running tips to avoid running injury:
Too much too soon. We’ve all been there: Signing up for a race then jumping into training with more enthusiasm than a Golden retriever puppy with a sock. Only to get burned out and end up injured and stuck on the couch, now more bulldog than Golden retriever. Diving into marathon training too fast and doing all the speed workouts, all the long run miles, and the high intensity workouts too soon is a recipe for injury and burnout. As coaches, it is our job to hold our clients back from going all out on every run, to restrain any huge jumps in mileage (don’t add more than 10 percent to your weekly mileage), and to keep the enthusiasm spread out all the way til race day and through the finish line. So when you set a new goal or sign up for a race, remember to be smart in your training and plan for rest days and easy, base mile run days.
No training plan. So many runners go to a bunch of running groups, fitness classes, and the gym, and workout all the time yet have no rhyme or reason to their training. If you don’t have a plan, it’s hard to make progress, and easy to over train and get injured. Or to not prepare enough and get injured over exerting yourself on race day. Find a training plan you can work with or have a coach create a personalized running plan for you. This will keep you on track to crush your running goals.
Lack of consistency. Having a great speed workout or long run is awesome, but if you do nothing the rest of the week, it won’t help you much. It’s important to keep your training consistent, with a mix of base runs/easy days, rest, speed workouts, cross training and long runs. If you don’t have those staple base mile run days, you’ll increase your chance of injury by having too many hard workout days.
Running at everyone else’s pace. This is a common one with coaches and pacers that I’ve experienced many times and my physical therapist Kathleen (at Custom Performance) has confirmed this is a common phenomenon that leads to injury. Running at a pace other than your natural one can throw off your mechanics and running form, and make you more likely to get injured. I got to the point where I was coaching so much and leading so many running events that I didn’t even know my natural pace anymore. I also wound up injured. Repeatedly. Whether you run with a running group or friend or lead events, make sure that your miles at other’s pace are at a minimum, 1 to 2 days per week, so you can focus on your natural pace and your own speed workouts as much as possible. If you go to running groups, make sure you run with the right pace group for you. if you do slower paced runs with others, make sure those are your easy, bas mile days.
Running through pain. This one’s a tricky one because we all grow up watching sports and movies that teach us that pushing through the pain is the key to glory and winning the game. But learn to listen to your body and when it goes beyond the regular discomfort of having trouble breathing during a speed workout or feeling some leftover muscle soreness from a hard workout, it is time to stop. If you feel sudden, sharp pain, stop running. Rest is the best way to care for running injuries and prevent them, so when you feel one coming on, stop and rest, don’t run through the sharp pain — you’ll end up injured and out of the running game much longer.
Lack of sleep. Speaking of rest, sleeping is key to your body’s recovery. Make sure you get at least 7 hours of sleep a night (ideally 8-9), and you’ll recover much faster from your long runs and hard workouts. Poor sleep can increase your chance of injury and sickness and also make you feel more sluggish and unmotivated. So get your shut eye!
Poor nutrition. Mariel and I both coach runners who don’t eat enough or eat a lot of empty calories from foods low in nutrients. I often coach runners who want to lose weight, and quite a few are on fad diets when I meet them. I encourage everyone to EAT ENOUGH and I cannot emphasize this enough, as restricting your calories also restricts your nutrients, making it harder for your muscles to rebuild after hard workouts. Poor nutrition will also make you feel tired and lacking in energy. In the long run, poor nutrition can lead to bone injuries like stress fractures, muscles tears, anemia, and more. Consult your doctor about healthy eating plans or see a nutritionist if you’d like to lose weight in a healthy way. Please don’t just cut out whole food groups like fruits or carbs because someone on Instagram says it’ll give you those photoshopped flat abs.
What are some common running mistakes you’ve seen or experienced? Share your tips below.
Marnie Kunz is a RRCA-certified running coach and the creator of Runstreet Art Runs, which bring together communities through running and street art. She is a Brooklyn resident, running coach and writer. She enjoys traveling, art, and eating messily. You can follow her running and events at @Runstreet Instagram and Runstreet Facebook.
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