Off-Season Running Guide:
Follow These 3 Principles To Stay Injury Free!
50% of runners are injured every year. We may want to attribute this to the wrong shoes, not stretching enough or a faulty gait. Of course these factors may come into play, but oftentimes it is much more simple than that.
Here are three factors that can heavily influence whether you will be able to handle your training:
Warm-up and Recovery
What you’re doing before and after your run will determine if any injury may occur.
The majority of patients that walk through my door with running injuries (IT Band syndrome, Achilles issues and plantar fasciitis to name a few) have extremely poor warm-up and recovery habits. Although dynamic stretching, calf and single leg work and skipping may seem boring; they prime our system by increasing our heart rate and building tolerance in our tendons and muscles for the upcoming run. We are a sedentary society and our tissues are rarely ready for activity. You don’t want to start your car and immediately start driving in cold weather, you want to warm up the engine first, same goes for our body.
The same applies to recovery, and I am not talking about CBD ointment and massage guns. I am referring to getting adequate sleep, solid nutrition and water intake. You are 60% more likely to be injured if you don’t get 8 hours of sleep regularly. So take a step back and re-evaluate how you structure your time around your runs.
The 10% Rule
While our muscles are capable of quickly adapting to training loads, our bones, tendons and ligaments need more time. They need to be primed to handle an increased training load. Runners often feel good while increasing the volume of running early on, however, continuous and large increases in mileage can wear down your tissues. This is because they don’t have enough time to adapt. An easy rule of thumb is not to increase your training volume by more than 10% from week to week. If you ran 20 miles one week, you only want to increase it to about 22 the following week. Any more than a 10% consistent increase over time, injuries are often sure to follow.
When I ask my runners if they cross-train, the usual response is “Of course, I cycle and swim too”. This is not cross-training. This is basically doing the same thing: more cardio, in different ways. Runners may not like to hear this, but they NEED to lift weights to prepare their bodies for running. That means real weight, not endless glute bridges and clam shells. Many runners allocate too much time to low-intensity rehab exercises. These movements have their place, but quickly lose effect due to the fact that the training stimulus isn’t high enough. Every time you footstrike, you load your lower extremities with 10-12x your body weight. Therefore, you need to be lifting a couple times a week to combat these stresses. We need to strengthen the body with heavy squats, lunges, deadlifts, and other single leg activities over time. Further, the weight needs to increase over time too. The same principle applies here, increase your load 10% a week and you will stay in the safe zone.
There are a million reasons someone gets injured; injury prevention is ultimately not 100% achievable. But by paying attention to our lifestyle outside of running, our overall training volume, and strengthening our tissues with heavy, slow resistance training will go a long way in warding off major injury.
What to take away from this post:
Consistent recovery before and after your runs is crucial. Implement stretching, warm-ups, proper nutrition and adequate sleep into your running routine.
Follow the 10% rule: increase your training volume by no more than 10% from week to week to stay injury free.
Cross-training does not equal more cardio. Strengthen the body with heavy squats, lunges, deadlifts, and other single leg activities to combat the stresses of running.