Runners World Articles: Archives
I haven't been injured in 10 years. Not once. And I'm proud of
I wasn't always this healthy. Twenty years ago I was injured a
lot. But since I depend on running to boost my mind, give me energy,
and melt away stress, I worked hard over the years to become injury-free.
These days, I'm living proof that you don't have to accept aches
and pains as you age. You, too, can be injury-free after 40 years
of running. Here's what has worked for me.
Watch your mileage. Most runners keep their weekly
mileage within a safe range most of the time. Two or three times
a year, however, many of get too fired up and increase the total
too quickly. This usually happens when we come back after a layoff.
Any sudden mileage increase exceeding 10 percent per week will
increase your injury risk. To avoid injuries as you add on the miles,
take an extra day off from running each week. Then add those extra
miles to a long-run day. By making each run longer and resting more,
you receive a better training effect, as well as quicker healing.
>Rest every three weeks. Even if you safely stick
to no more than a 10 percent weekly mileage buildup, your body could
use a break every three weeks. You don't have to stop running. But
for one week, cut back your mileage by 30 to 50 percent to reduce
the buildup of fatigue and damage.
Always warm up. Always. After a 5-minute walk,
walk and jog for 5 more minutes, then jog slowly for 5 minutes more,
so you're basically warming up for the first very slow mile of your
run. Transition into a faster pace with four to eight short accelerations,
walking or jogging for 1 to 2 minutes after each one. As you legs
warm up, you can increase the pace slightly on each acceleration.
By the last one, you should be running your goal speed for the day.
Do hills before speed. If you haven't been doing
speed drills, don't suddenly run 10 hard laps around the high school
track. In fact, don't even run one lap. Instead, find a 100-to-200
meter hill and run up it 3 three to four times once a week for three
to four weeks. During this period, start mixing four to eight one-block
accelerations into your regular runs. Both techniques will build
the strength needed to safety complete speed sessions.
Consistently run fast. When you're ready to start
track work, commit yourself to it. If you only do sporadic speed
sessions, your body will never adapt to faster running. On the other
hand, doing too much speed can also leave you prone to injuries.
Here's the magic formula: one speed session per week.
When you do a speed session, warm up thoroughly first. Never run
all out. Be sure to slow down or stop the session at the first sign
of extreme pain. Begin with three to five 400-meter surges. Run
no more than 5 to 7 seconds faster per quarter mile than your 5K
race pace, and walk half the distance of your speed session to recover.
Stretch at night. Many runners make the mistake
of vigorously trying to stretch out the tightness brought on by
exertion and fatigue. Problem is, stretching a tired muscle too
much can tear muscle fibers and increase recovery time. So it's
best to avoid extreme stretching immediately before and immediately
after running (one exception: gently stretching your iliotibial
band-on the outside of each leg-can help prevent knee problems).
If you do stretch after running, do so very gently, and do the majority
of your stretching before you go to bed.
Keep your stride steady. Avoid the temptation
to increase stride length at the end of long runs, races, or speed
sessions. This puts more pressure on already tired muscles and doesn't
accomplish your goals. Quicker turnover of feet and legs is the
key to faster running.
World, March 1999, p. 42
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