Runner’s World July 2003
By Jeff Galloway
RUN AWAY FROM INJURIES
Stay injury-free indefinitely. I’ll show you how.
Many runners believe that running injuries are like death and taxes:
inevitable. But they’re not. I’m proud to say I haven’t
had an overuse injury in more than 23 years. Am I genetically gifted?
Hardly! I’ve just learned a bunch of training techniques that
help me avoid what I call the “injury zone.” The ‘injury
zone” is a set of four running conditions that can lead to
injuries. Once you know what these four conditions are, it’s
easy to adjust your training to steer clear of them and run injury-free.
1. Weak Links:
Most of us have certain joints, tendons, or muscles that are more
injury-prone than others. As runners, we have to be protective of
these spots in order to stay injury-free. So be particularly sensitive
to any irritation in your weak areas, and back off on your running
whenever you suspect an injury.
Remember: An extra day or two off from running won’t put a
dent in your fitness level, but can make a world of difference if
you’re on the verge of an injury.
2. Faulty running form:
When running at an easy pace, most runners settle into the running
form that works best biomechanically for them. But when you push
yourself to run longer or faster than your current fitness level,
running form often breaks down, which can lead to injury.
For example, at the end of a hard race or long run, many runners
begin to over stride to compensate for tired and tight muscles.
This can irritate the hamstrings, glutes, and piriformis muscles
(located underneath the glutes). To guard against form breakdown,
do periodic “form checks” while running and racing,
and make adjustments when necessary. Sometimes just backing off
the pace will restore your natural running gait.
3. Mileage Mania:
The human body is designed to improve its efficiency and capability
through repeated bouts of stress and rest. But even reasonable mileage
increases of no more than 10 percent per week can increase your
risk of injury if they are continual. Periodically, you need to
let your body adjust to its new workload for an extended period
of 2-3 weeks before the next incremental increase. During this period
of maintenance, scheduling days off are key.
Stretching is a fine preventive measure when performed correctly.
But overstretching a fatigued muscle can actually lead to injury.
So when you suspect an injury coming on, swap your stretches for
a deep-tissue massage.
Many times joint pain is caused by a knot in a muscle above or below
the affected joint, which then pulls on a tendon and causes pain
where it attaches to the joint. Deep-tissue massage can reduce the
tension in the muscle, and over time lessen the joint pain.
You have a lot of control over your injury destiny. Here are four
training strategies to help you assert that control and keep you
1. Run every other day
2. Start each run significantly slower than your regular training
3. Don’t let faster, fitter running partners coax you into
running beyond your speed limit or endurance level.
4. Add regular walk breaks to your long runs. Walk breaks reduce
the intensity of runs and lessen muscle fatigue during a workout,
which lowers your risk of injury.
Injuries are easiest to treat right at the outset. Here’s
what you need to do if you suspect an injury:
• Take 1 to 3 days off from running.
• For inflammation, and most injuries involve this, ice the
area for 15 minutes at a time. Continue icing the area for a full
week even if the swelling and pain go away.
• For muscle pain and inflammation, ask your doctor if you
can take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication such as aspirin
• Once you’re recovered from an injury, keep running
at reduced mileage for another 2 to 3 weeks.
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