How to Train Hard Without Injury
3 simple tips on how to avoid injuries and crush your next PR
One of the worst things that can happen to a runner is to sustain an injury at the peak of your training. Injuries are not only physically painful but can have lasting effects on your motivation and desire to keep trying. Why would you put in all of that time and effort to just get injured again a week before your race?
I have been running competitively since I was a freshman in high school. I ran all four years of high school track, three years of high school cross country (please excuse my freshman year of high school when I still thought football was a good idea for me), two years of junior college cross country, two years of junior college track and dozens of road races in between and since. I have had weeks where I ran sixty miles per week and I have had weeks where I run three miles per week. Through all of the time that I have dedicated to running, I am proud to say that I have been able to almost completely avoid injuries. My ability to avoid injuries has allowed me to train and compete at an extremely high level for many years.
The following are guidelines and tips that I have learned along the way that will be able to help you avoid injury, continue to train, and excel in your next race.
- One of the most important things to remember when training is to get enough rest. This means that you are getting enough sleep at night AND that if you are feeling exhausted before a workout to either take the day off or to change up your plan. This was something that I struggled with in high school and would feel very guilty about if I took a day off but is something that I have truly adopted as an adult. If you are putting in a substantial amount of miles each week, you should be getting around eight hours of sleep per night. This will allow your body to truly rest and recover so that you can perform each workout properly and to the best of your ability. Getting enough rest also includes making sure that your recovery days are truly a time to recover. You don’t have to run fast every day and you really shouldn’t. If you’re just beginning, here is a good weekly plan to follow. Of course, make any adjustments that you deem necessary.
Monday: Hard Track or Interval Workout
Tuesday: Recovery Day (slow run)
Wednesday: Steady Threshold Run
Thursday: Hard Track or Interval Workout
Friday: Recovery Day (slow run)
Saturday: Long Run
Sunday: Off Day (Yoga, Stretching, Easy Cycling, etc)
- Another way to do your best to avoid injuries is to pay attention to the surface upon which you are running and your form. One of the fastest ways to get injured is to run with poor form (maybe from being too tired) on a hard surface like concrete or asphalt. I am from Arizona and grew up in a small town where we had the privilege of having miles and miles of soft-packed dirt farm fields to run through. This is softer than concrete but still packed enough to not feel like you’re running on the beach. If you don’t have dirt trails near you, consider doing your run at a park on the grass. Running on the grass not only will keep your joints from breaking down as fast, but it will also make you stronger for your next road race. One of the best interval workouts is to do a fartlek on the grass.
- Finally, one of the tips that I have come to appreciate as an adult is cross-training. Cross-training is when you substitute a running workout for a different kind of workout that will be easier on your body. For example, if you’re feeling a bit worn down from a tough track workout on Monday, consider doing your recovery run by taking a swim. Swimming is an incredible way to cross-train because it is an amazing workout in and of itself but it also is very forgiving on your joints. You can also opt for a bike ride rather than a run one day. A bike ride will give you a very similar cardio workout without having all of the pounding on your feet, ankles, knees, and hips. Cross-training may also help you out mentally if you are feeling a bit bored with running. Although running is one of my greatest passions, sometimes I get stuck in a rut and need to change some things up. Cycling or swimming is a great way to get the workout that you want without the negatives that sometimes come with running.
There is no greater feeling than executing all of your workouts over a long period of time and seeing the results on race day. Toeing the starting line after knowing that you were able to train your hardest to get there gives you confidence when others are feeling butterflies. One of the most disheartening things that can happen to a runner, or any athlete, is to get an injury that prevents them from training or racing and forces them to start their training over when they finally heal. Incorporate these tips into your workout plan to avoid injury and succeed in your running endeavors!