Training Tips to Decrease Injury Risk
Staying well nourished, stretching every day, cross-training three times a week and only running five days a week at appropriate speeds/distances will help you avoid overtraining.
Avoid injury by backing off when early signs of stress occur. When running is no longer a joy for 90 percent of the miles, the rest of your life is probably affected. Back off on training and enjoy your other pursuits.
Overtraining and injury warning signs include stress from too much running, or from work, money, family or house moving etc. Monitor for:
- Dull aching pains in joints, tendons or muscles, and slower recovery from training sessions. Your endorphins may override the pain signals after a few miles, or the pain may get worse: Either way, find the cause.
- Sore feet and lower leg muscles for many days at a time.
- Pain at old injury sites? Take an extra day or two off and do your next quality run in water or do biking or elliptical training intervals to allow for healing.
- Stress or fatigue usually decreases your running speed for a given effort.
- Feeling tired, cranky or sleeping poorly.
- Many illnesses such as sore throats, colds or flu, skin conditions, mouth ulcers or swollen lymph glands.
- Loss of weight or extreme thirst in the evenings.
- Decreased sex drive.
- Higher than usual resting heartrate in the morning. 10 % higher and it’s time to cut training volume back by 20 %, and run 30 seconds per mile slower for this mileage.
- Heart rate 20 % higher, or does not return to normal after a week of easier and less running? Add extra rest days.
- Feel dead at the beginning, middle and end of several runs, and with unusual fatigue levels. Take a few days off. Stretch daily and slowly while taking your break.
Consistency is vital for marathon training. Don’t make a sudden change because you feel no difference after just 3 sessions at anaerobic threshold or hill repeats. Do months of these types of training while patiently awaiting results and make no sudden changes.
Training Tips to Avoid Overtraining
- Do strength before speed.
- Run hills or hilly courses or run in mud or sand before attempting serious speed running at 5K pace. Use jumping, bounding and other plyometric exercises too. It may take 12 to 20 weeks of regular resistance training before your muscles are ready for the stresses of speed running.
- Make sure you start well hydrated, and do a 10 to 15 minute warmup before stretching. Start your speed running sessions with striders of 100 to 200 meters on grass at 5K pace. Nothing flashy or fast. Practice your running form.
- Then move to long repeats at 15K race pace (about 15 seconds per mile slower than 10K pace). Alternate sessions of mile repeats with continuous tempo runs of 20 to 25 minutes at 15K pace.
- In the hours leading into a speed session, psych yourself up a bit. Visualize your running form and your strength, and then put it into practice while controlling the speed of your first few repeats. Run with people of similar abilities mostly.
- You’ll then be ready for VO2 maximum training. For most runners, 5K pace is fast enough. Experienced runners may wish to run 10 to 12 seconds per mile faster, which is 2 mile race pace. This is only 3 seconds per 400 meters faster than 5K pace, but it’s 100 percent of a persons VO2 max. Running any faster than 2 mile race pace is pointless and adds substantially to your injury risk, and you spend very little time at your ideal training heartrate.
- Practice landing gently on even grass at 5K pace before running at speed on the track. Do one mile of gentle striders at 5K pace before moving up to 300 meters then 400 meter repeats. Gradually build up the number of repeats toward 10 percent of your total weekly mileage.
- Having a bad track session? Cut out a few reps if you need to. Next time, don’t run it the day after a 20, start the session well hydrated, at appropriate running pace and after a warm up with stretching and striders and you’ll have cured 90 percent of the causes of poor speed sessions. You get 90 percent of the benefits from the first two thirds of the session, so 10 instead of 15 reps is still a success.
- Variety during track sessions: Doing 12 times 400 meters to improve your running economy? Run the first one nice and relaxed at 5K pace; the next repeat one second faster; the next with shorter, but faster strides yet restraining yourself to 5K pace again; for the fourth one, do the first 200 meters at 5K pace, but increase legspeed to 2 mile pace for the last 200 meters; then run a 5K pace rep but with higher knees than normal; then one where the emphasis is on whipping your leg through faster, or pushing off with the calf muscle properly to propel you forward rather than upwards.
- Mess around to work on different aspects of running form, while only changing pace by about one second. Your form changes can be so subtle that few people watching would notice that you are varying your workout!
- Marathon runners should be no more injury prone than 10K runners. Make sure you run efficiently in the last few miles of your long runs. No overstriding.
- Minor pace changes on long runs too. Your body talks to you constantly, but just like your significant other’s ramblings, you’re not always listening. Sleep studies show that humans change position almost hourly, yet many runners do three to four hour runs using the same stride length and surface the entire way. Vary your pace by 10-15 seconds per mile on purpose instead of due to the fatigue of the constant pace. Run a few hundred yards on grass and dirt every mile or two. Stretch the shoulders and arms every 30 minutes when you take your hydration stops. Running in the city? Loop through schools and parks to include a bit of grass running, and to drink at the water fountains.
- Add longer sections at race pace on long runs. Long runs require more of your muscle fibers to work because the first ones used become tired…the technical word is fatigued! During long runs your fat metabolism improves, and if you get dehydrated, your heartrate increases. Over many months, your VO2 maximum increases and your endurance rises! Once your running muscles have got used to the demands asked of them and adapt to their task, you can boost the training affect by:
- Varying the pace by 10 to 15 seconds per mile;
- Increasing effort up some hills to maintain running speed with good form, instead of slowing down. Let your heartrate go up 10 beats per minute.
- Running close to marathon race pace toward the end of the run, which will make you concentrate on running form, while bringing in the last of your muscle fibers.
- But do not push yourself to maximum effort during these speed sections. Remain well under control. No sprinting.
- You’re training for the marathon, so try two times one mile at marathon pace at mile 14 of an 18. Do these speed sections on the grass or a track, then finish your long run with another two miles at 70 percent max HR.
- Your main speed sessions come later in the week, so keep the fast sections of your long runs to 10 percent of your long run. In your main speed sessions you’ll be running 10 to 40 seconds per mile faster than race pace.
- You are not perfect! Aim for consistently good training runs, not perfect training sessions. Be prepared to change your run if conditions make change the right choice. Your training does need structure, but you don’t have to run 8 times half a mile at the track on a cold gusty day just because it’s week three of your cycle. Some days you will run like the aged old dog which you are. Take a shower. You can run like an old dog again in 23 hours. Learn to accept your bad days. Had three old dog days in a row? It’s probably time for a rest day. It could also be time for some gentle striders!
- Be positive. Be the engine which can get up the hill, at good speed and with good running form. Tell yourself you can run those 800s at 5K pace; the wind is only 15 miles an hour; it will be relaxing to run into the wind with a slight forward lean.
- Associate or think about your state of fatigue, running pace and breathing. Relaxing at appropriate pace while staying hydrated helps you to cope with your exertion, so monitor your body and running form every mile and you will end up running faster races. Visualize yourself running with good form before you train.
- Don’t try for personal bests in every session. Usually, running a little slower than your best for a particular session is best. If you take a couple of rest days you’ll be able to run 16 times 400 meters at 2 mile race pace. Sandwich that track session between a 10 mile tempo run at marathon pace and a 20 mile run at one minute slower than marathon pace, and the 400s will need to be at a more realistic 5K pace.
- Just done a personal best for a training session? You either:
- Had it coming because of a solid month or months of training;
- Put more effort than you normally do into that days run;
- Had more rest in the last 96 hours;
- Recently lost some puppy fat;
- Ran your weakest route on a course which you’ve rarely tried to run fast on before.
- Had a training partner, and actually ran the first 2 repeats at the right pace instead of too fast.
- Most of the above leave you very relaxed and ready to race. Perhaps you should save it for your races? However, good training sessions are needed to prepare for races. But don’t repeat the session tomorrow. Instead, take a steady to easy training run because in two or three days you’ll need another quality run to work at a different aspect of your running.
- Be specific: Once a week, do a training session which is very specific to your next goal race. Racing a half-marathon soon? Tempo runs of 4 miles at 5 seconds per mile faster than goal pace, and mile to 1.5 mile repeats at 10 to 15 seconds per mile faster than goal pace would be your key sessions to improve your anaerobic threshold.
- You still need tempo running if you’re racing 5Ks; you still need 5K pace sessions to race the half-marathon.
- Next race disgusting hilly or pancake flat? Do key sessions on similar terrain, but do some training on completely different terrain for variety and to prevent over training a particular group of muscles.
- While we cannot stop chronological aging, we can slow physiological aging. You can aim to race at the same age graded performance as you did at your peak. If you entered this sport late, you can also compare your current performances on the age graded tables to see how fast you could have been in your late 20s or early 30s, which is the peak for distance runners.
- Once you’ve reached your actual peak, expect and accept a 5 percent decrease in your performance per decade. Train for the same length of time, at the same relative intensity of previous years.