Staying Injury-Free

As you increase mileage, you may find that you start to experience aches and pains. Many people conclude at this point that running longer distances just is not achievable. If I had a quarter for every person who told me that running marathons would kill my knees, I’d be a multi-millionaire! I am happy to report that my knees (and the rest of me!) are just fine. However, sometimes your body just gets tired. Has your brain ever felt exhausted after a long work week? Are some work weeks worse than others? The same happens to your body, and a little extra TLC (tender loving care) is all that is needed.

First, make sure you are ramping up your distance prudently. The prevailing thought among running coaches is to not increase your distance by more than 10% each week. And for those of us who are no longer twenty-something or thirty-somethings  (insert throat clearing sound effects here), even that may be too aggressive. The important thing is to give your body time to adjust before forcing it to go further. For example, I usually run 3 days per week with 2 of those runs being “short” runs and one being a “long” run.  I also follow a periodization plan. During a given four-week “period”, I increase the distance of my long runs by 10% for three consecutive weeks and then take a “recovery” week on the fourth week when I scale back even more. And then I start a new “period” with three weeks of increasing distance and one week of recovery. It looks something like this:

Week 1: 2-3 mile run on Tuesday, 2-3 mile run on Thursday, 5 mile run on Saturday

Week 2: 2-3 mile run, 2-3 mile run, 5.5 miles (increase 10% of 5 miles)

Week 3: 2-3 mile run, 2-3 mile run, 6 miles (increase 10% of 5.5 miles)

Week 4: 2-3 mile run, 2-3 mile run, 3 miles (recovery week)

Week 5: 2-3 mile run, 2-3 mile run, 6.6 miles (increase 10% of 6 miles)

Week 6: 2-3 mile run, 2-3 mile run, 7.25 miles (increase 10% of 6.6 miles)

Week 7: 2-3 mile run, 2-3 mile run, 8 miles (increase 10% of 7.25 miles)

Week 8: 2-3 mile run , 2-3 mile run , 3 miles (recovery week)

Does this mean that it will take you longer than 8 weeks to train for a half marathon if you are starting from scratch? Yes. Will your body thank you for the extra time to adjust? Definitely!

For those of you training for full marathons, I have found through trial and error (read: lots of error), once I get to 15 miles on my long run, continuing to increase by 10% causes me to be more injury-prone than I would like. So, I chose to limit my weekly increases to one mile each week.  I would rather plan in the extra time when training for a race, then have to drop out of a race due to injury.

However, even though you may be prudent in your mileage increases, sometimes your body gets tight. Shin splints and plantar fasciitis are common running “injuries” that are preventable and treatable with stretching, yoga, and massage. You may have noticed above that I only run 3 days a week. Does that mean I only workout 3 days a week? Nope. I also do 3-4 days of strength training, cross-training (cardio activity other than running/walking), and yoga.  Stretching, yoga, and massage are essential tools needed to keep your body supple, so don’t skimp on those. If you were looking for an excuse to get a professional massage on a regular basis, now you have it!

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