[heading]What Causes Running Injuries?[/heading]
I was stretching after my run today and suddenly realized that I have had far fewer injuries recently than I used to. I found myself pondering why that should be, and decided to share my conclusions in this article. I believe there are three main causes of injury.
“Youth is a wonderful thing” said Bernard Shaw. “What a crime to waste it on children.”
Yes, youth is the most common cause of injuries. Young runners tend to be
What a lethal combination!
The inexperience means they have no idea of their limits: this can be a good thing, but it is also a leading cause of injuries.
Impatience causes them to ignore the usual precautions that we older runners take.
Aggressiveness leads to pushing too hard too soon.
As we grow older, we learn more about our bodies in three ways.
- Good experiences
- Bad experiences
Reading articles about running gives me new ideas and keeps me informed about the latest research. I also read articles on fitness, health and nutrition generally. The more we can learn about our bodies and how to take care of them, the better.
Good running experiences help us to test our limits safely. Running fast downhill without injury, using hill sprints to strengthen our lungs and legs, and finding that perfect long-run pace work together to teach us what our bodies are capable of without excessive strain. Good experiences help push our limits safely.
There are really no “bad” experiences – just learning experiences. Pushing past our limits to the point of injury helps teach us the value of patience during recovery, as well as how to cross-train. Through these learning experiences we discover how hard we can push ourselves without injury.
The single most common cause of injuries is overtraining. I have found over the years that three important rules will help keep me injury-free:
- The 10% rule
- Easy days
The 10% rule is just a guide: don’t increase any activity by more than 10% per week. Don’t increase your long run distance or time by more than 10%; don’t increase your weekly mileage by more than 10%; don’t increase your speedwork by more than 10%. It’s a good rough guide to avoiding injury.
When you do a hard workout, whether it’s a long run, intervals or hill sprints, your muscles need some recovery time. The idea behind easy days is to give the muscles a chance to recover and build strength before the next hard workout. Alternate hard days with easy days and hard weeks with easy weeks for injury prevention.
Running the same course every time in the same shoes at the same pace is a recipe for injury. Vary your course, if you can, use at least two different pairs of running shoes and alternate them, and vary your running pace. Mix up long runs, easy runs, speedwork and cross-training to avoid injury.
In this article, I mentioned cross-training. For many of us, cross-training is something we do when we’re injured and can’t run, but it has value in injury prevention. Running alone stresses the same muscles in every workout: cross-training helps to strengthen the other muscles we need to avoid injuries.
Most runners prefer to spend their exercise time running, rather than cross-training, so we tend to neglect this important aspect of remaining injury-free. My own experience has taught me that this is a mistake. Cross-training is an essential part of injury prevention.
If your time is limited, the single best form of cross-training for avoiding injuries is strength training. I have found this has given me more benefits than any of the recommendations I gave you so far. Ignore it at your peril.
Run strong, run happy!
[note color="#FFCC00"] To see how you can incorporate strength training in your regimen, spending only about 20 minutes per week of your time, take a look at this website.[/note]