With me aiming for a sub 2:20 at London marathon in just a few weeks time, my average mileage has been around 100-miles per week for the past 7 weeks. One of the questions that pops up the most is how I do this sort of mileage, week in and week out, with loads of quality, and not get injured.
I’ll share my 10 Best Tips to remain injury free throughout training;
1) Strength & Conditioning work
This is probably the most important of all of them. Strength work is generally the long-term fix to all injuries, niggles, or areas of concern. When it comes to running, if you neglect your S & C work at some point throughout your journey, you’re almost guaranteed to get injured. Running training takes a lot out on your body and you need to ensure your muscles are equipped to be able to handle this sort of load.
This doesn’t mean you need to go and do massive strength sessions and lift heavy weights. I actually find more regular, less intense sessions to be a lot more effective. I finish off every run with 12 jump quats, 14 jump lunges and 20 pulse calf raises on each leg. It takes a total of about 4 minutes and if it’s going to keep me injury free, then it’s 4 minutes of my day I’m more than happy to put in! Apart from this, I do a daily morning routine, which takes 10 – 15 minutes and is also not very intense. If you’d like to follow along with me, you can find this on either my YouTube channel or under the blog section of my website. Apart from this, I only do weighted work once a week.
Remember that it’s important that once you have done the rehab work to recover from an injury, strength work should not be neglected, especially to areas of weakness. There is nothing worse than a recurring injury that hinders your training!
2) Don’t do anything drastic
In the running game, it’s baby steps that work the best! If you’re looking to improve, reduce your volumes and intensities by just a tiny bit week on week. As soon as you do something out of the ordinary or massively out of your comfort zone, that increases the chance of injury!
I know it’s easier said than done. Especially when you are following athletes better than you on Strava, or seeing what the world’s best do. I did a Kipchoge style track session a few weeks ago. This was not a good idea! It usually takes me 2 days to recover from my intense track sessions - this one took 5! Never try to compare yourself to others and replicate their training. Just move forward, gradually and consistently, and with time you’ll see results, whilst giving yourself your best shot at remaining injury free.
3) Keep easy days easy and incorporate rest days
This is a training principal that I religiously follow. Once again, back-to-back harder days just increase the risk of injury so try avoiding this. Easy days allow your body to recover and the micro fibre tears within your muscles to heal. If your body never fully recovers, then you won’t perform at optimum levels!
Another point that is easier said than done. It’s hard to hold back. In fact, I often find running slow a lot harder than running fast. Your muscles feel achy and you don’t get that adrenaline kick that you do when you’re pushing and your heart rate is high. But to improve takes discipline and these easier days should feel easy, both mentally and physically. If you follow heart rate than you should not go above your zone 2, which is 72% of your max.
It’s also a good idea to incorporate at least 1 full rest day a week.
4) Recovery protein within half an hour of harder sessions
After harder sessions, you have a crucial half an hour window to get recovery protein into your body. If you miss this window, your body can take up to 2 days longer to recover. Get. That. Protein. In! You body and muscles need it! It speeds up that recovery process, allowing you to be a lot fresher for the next time a harder session comes around.
Personally, I take my recovery protein to my harder sessions (track, tempo, hills, races), so that it’s readily available as soon as I finish! If you watch the world’s best, guys like The Kipchoge and The Farah, it’s the first thing they do after a hard session, and there’s a reason for this!
5) At least 8 hours of sleep
When you’re sleeping is when your body truly recovers. Elite athletes will often aim for a lot more than this. Roger Federer gets 12 hours! I know we all have families, work commitments etc. but you should try aim for a minimum of 8. Banking that amount of sleep is so valuable in your quest to remain injury free.
6) Listen to your body and back off before it’s too late – See a Physio!
Runners are often too proud, stubborn, and stuck in their ways, like me! When I got my first ever stress fracture, my shin was sore for about 8 weeks. I thought I knew better! “Ah it warms up, sometimes it’s sore, sometimes not so much, it’ll go away”. No! I was wrong! I should have seen a physio straight away and got a diagnosis immediately. We put a lot of time and effort into this sport, so look after your body by seeing a physio when you need to, before it’s too late.
I know it’s tricky when you have a weekly target you want to hit. But listening to your body and backing off at the right time is so much more important than getting in the exact session that was planned. If you need to, sacrifice a session to remain injury free. 10/10 runners would take this. Try not force sessions, because often, from that point onwards, it’s too late.
7) Cross train throughout training!
The benefit of non-impact cross training is highly valuable for when it comes to running. It took me getting injured to find this out! I know, as a passionate runner, nothing beats running. Ask me to go for a 40-minute run, no problem! Ask me to spend 40 minutes on the cross trainer and it feels like I could watch Titanic. Twice!
It’s often not as fun and time takes a whole lot longer but the benefits you get from doing this cross training, makes every second worth it! Often, if someone I’m coaching has a sore knee/shin/ankle, whatever the niggle, I recommend doing the planned sessions cross training. On either a bike, elliptical, swimming, rowing machine or other forms of cross training. That way you can still get your planned session in, you aerobically get fitter and you’re not making your niggles any worse or aggravating any potential injuries that could occur
8) Shoes (if not broken don’t fix it)
If you’re not injured now and your shoes have been working for you, then don’t change them! This is a common mistake made by a lot of runners. We’ll see a new shoe drop, see it trending in the running world, buy it straight away and next thing you’ve got niggles you didn’t have before.
I like to alternate between my running shoes, giving them a chance to recover before hammering them again. Life is also far too short not to get new shoes, once yours have worn. The recommended mileage for the life span of running shoes is about 500 – 800km. I tend to get a bit more than this. If your shoe feels worn or you can see the wear and tear underneath, it’s time. Just Do It!
9) 80/20 Rule
This is another training principal that not a lot of runners follow. Why? Because it’s boring! What this means is 80% easy/recovery/maintenance (YES 80%) and 20% speed/quality (only 20%). If, for example, you’re doing a 100km week, then only 20kms should be done at higher intensities.
This 20% makes you a faster, stronger, better runner! But it’s the 80% that keeps you injury free, which is just as important, if not more important. We all have different ratios but I find the 80/20 split works best for most.
10) Ice bath/foam roll/massage gun
All of this helps with tight muscles and speeds up recovery. If you do a hard session on very tight legs, the chances of getting injured are a lot higher!
Some runners find that recovery creams work better for them. I find that immediately after a hard session, if I shock the body/muscles with an ice cold bath then this just speeds up the recovery process.
I use my massage gun every day! I love it! When correctly done it really loosens up tight muscles, especially my calves and soleus, which tend to get very tight! If you haven’t got one and thinking about it, trust me, it’ll be one of the best things you buy. If you’re looking for a quality one at a discounted price, get in touch and I’ll give you details.
In addition to this, I try to not neglect foam rolling and aim to do this a few times a week.
Hope these 10 tips help you! They most certainly have helped me!
Training smarter, not harder!
Onwards and Upwards!
If you have any questions, please feel free to give me a shout.