Top tips to avoid the most common injuries runners face.
It’s common for people to get over-excited when they start a new training plan, and although enthusiasm is good, it can sometimes lead to injuries. Follow these tips to make sure your training is injury-free.
1. Build up slowly
When you’re building up your mileage, you should try not to increase it by more than 10–15% each week. If you’re starting at 5k and working your way up to 21k, this should take you at least 15 weeks.
A common training strategy is to have 3 hard build-up weeks followed by one recovery week, where you drop your mileage to help your body recover. This week shouldn’t be a full rest week — instead, replace a couple of your runs with a cycle or other cross-training session.
2. Work on your running technique
Improving your running technique will not only make you faster and more efficient, but it will also significantly reduce your risk of injury.
- Cadence, cadence, cadence: This is a measure of how many steps you take per minute. You should ideally be taking 180 steps per minute. This may feel fast to begin with; if that is the case, try using Spotify playlists to help you keep your cadence up.
- The heel-striker vs forefoot runner debate: There are countless articles and studies that argue both ways. In reality, the most important aspect of foot-landing is where you land in relation to your hips: your feet should land beneath your hips rather than far in front of them. This reduces the impact on your knee and hip joints, and ensures you are propelling yourself forwards rather than back.
- Stand up tall: Runners tend to lean forwards, especially when they get tired. Focus on standing tall and actively pushing your hips forwards.
A paid coaching session to improve your running technique is a small price to pay for miles and miles of uninjured fun.
3. Strengthen your glutes
The gluteus maximus is the largest muscle in the human body, so you might as well make the most of it. Strengthening your glutes will help with your posture and will reduce risk of running injuries. Below are some exercises to try:
- One-legged squats: Do 3 x 10 squats on each leg. When squatting down, try visualizing sitting down in a chair behind you, and make sure your knee does not move forward in front of your toes.
- Superman: Lie on your front, and lift up your legs and arms as far off the ground as possible. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat 5 times.
- Glute bridge: Lie down on your back, with your knees bent, as if you’re about to do a sit-up. Lift up your right leg and bend your knee fully, and lift up your pelvis so that your back and left thigh form a straight line (see images below for proper technique). Repeat 3 x 10 times on each leg.
As your time spent training increases, your body will need more time to recover, and a lot of this recovery occurs while you’re sleeping.
In his book Why We Sleep, Matthew Walker provides evidence of the effect of sleep on sports injuries. His studies show that an extra hour of sleep from 7 to 8 hours can nearly halve your risk of injury. Sometimes it’s better to sleep through that alarm and miss your early morning session…
Increasing your training doesn’t have to mean hurting your body. Follow these tips and enjoy your journey to becoming a better, stronger runner! You’ll love it.