You’ve signed up for an endurance run. Congratulations! You’ll soon be strapping running shoes to your feet and stepping up to the starting line alongside your fellow athletes, all eager to prove that your weeks of training can propel you over the distance ahead.
Whether you’re a longtime runner, a hobbyist or someone attempting to check off one of their New Year’s resolutions, it’s important to keep safety in mind alongside fitness as you prepare for your hopefully-triumphant journey. No matter how far you plan to run, too much training, the wrong kind of training or preparing with bad equipment can all leave you in worse shape than you were when you began.
First of all, you need to avoid the common running injuries which every year prevent many runners from participating in anticipated events at the last moment. Running injuries typically happen because of repetitive micro-trauma, injuring the weakest anatomical location of a vulnerable structure. Summarizing the research, 45%-70% of endurance athletes suffer from a running injury within a period of 12 months. And for recreational or novice runners this is even worse. Experienced runners tend to have a lower risk of injury because they develop an innate ability to recognize the onset of an injury and prevent it from worsening.
The most common running injuries are knee-related injuries, followed by foot, ankle and lower leg, but the hips and the back also may suffer from running.
Common training errors that lead to running injuries are:
• Rapid increase in weekly distance
• Continuous long distance
• Abrupt change in running surface
• Failure to follow hard training days with light training days
• Wearing inadequate sport shoes
• Returning to a previous distance too fast after a break
• Running several months without a break
• Too much interval training
• Muscles imbalances and/or inadequate muscular strength or range of motion
So how do you avoid most of these injuries?
The right equipment
If you’ve got a good pair of shoes and the right clothing, you’ve already achieved part of your goal. Given that everyone has a different stride, it’s essential to choose a good pair of shoes which suit you. They won’t just ensure your comfort, they’ll also help you avoid muscular injury and damage to the bones or arteries of your feet, as well as your ankles, knees, pelvis, back and even your shoulders. To do this, you need to consult specialists who have the machines available to analyze your stride.
For clothing, you don’t need to reach immediately for high tech fabrics when you start running. The main thing you need is a windcheater or a pullover to ensure you don’t catch a chill after training.
You need to pay close attention to your overall training progression, moderately increasing distance and the number of harder running days. Multiple studies suggest the 10% rule works: increase distance no more than 10% each week.
It is also important to schedule days off for recovery and avoid excessive downhill running on consecutive days.
For the first four weeks, if you train three times a week with a rest day between each training session, 20 to 30 minutes of activity is enough. During your training session, you should alternate running with walking. It could be that, at first, you need to walk more than you run. Don’t worry, because this will gradually be reversed as you continue with your training. To stay motivated, some people wear intelligent bracelets, a pedometer equipped with a GPS allowing you to visualize your effort or to log the number of calories burnt while running.
From the fifth to the seventh week, increase the sessions by 10 minutes and the intervals of walking by a maximum of one to two minutes. Your workouts will become more intense, but you’ll be making real progress. Ideally, you should use a heart rate meter during your training sessions to establish a target heart rate which allows you to talk without getting out of breath while you’re training, so that you don’t push yourself too hard.
During the final three weeks, the aim is to reduce the number of intervals of walking, until you no longer have any at all. Finally, you’ll be running for about thirty minutes, you’ll cover 5km and your body will thank you because both your physical and mental condition will come out of it much improved.