Jeff Gaudette—Getting injured stinks. Not only does it prevent you from getting out the door and doing what you love every day, but staying healthy for an extended period of time is the single most important factor to improving your running.
Interview any runner, elite or recreational, about what led to their most recent breakthrough and I can guarantee you the answer can be traced back to staying injury-free. Sure, they might credit their new coach, a change in diet, or a variety of other factors. However, these changes all resulted in the same outcome: healthy, consistent training.
Since staying healthy is so important, what aspects of your training are most likely to result in injury? More importantly, how can you avoid these costly mistakes?
Trying To Make Up For Missed Or Failed Workouts
While it’s perfectly OK to rearrange and adjust a training schedule to ensure you accomplish the most important runs, simply cramming in missed workouts or attempting them again is the quickest route to injury.
Repeating A Failed Workout
Asking to run a workout again after a poor showing is one of the most frequent requests I receive as a coach. Honestly, I empathize with why runners are so eager to run a workout again. It doesn’t matter if it’s weather related, a mental block, or just a bad day, having a bad workout is very frustrating.
However, you should never try the workout again the next day.
If you ran more than half the workout already, attempting to perform the workout again is going to add serious fatigue and almost assuredly will result in overtraining or an overuse injury. Proper recovery is essential to staying injury-free.
The best approach is to examine why you had a bad day and try to fix that problem before your next session. Did you not fuel well? Not get enough sleep? Make sure you address these more important factors to ensure more consistent workouts over the long-term.
Moreover, look for lessons in the negatives. Did you give up easily when it started to hurt? Was your pacing off? Learn from these lessons and make your next workout count.
Cramming To Fit Everything In During The Week
Another all-too-common mistake is trying to cram missed workouts in during the week. It’s common to see runners miss their long run on a Sunday and then try to make it up on Monday. This isn’t a bad thing provided they also move back their next hard session and consider reducing or eliminating their next long run.
However, most runners I know simply move the long run to Monday and complete their upcoming week as scheduled.
Again, this is a one-way ticket to your local sports doctor. Cramming workouts together only leads to overtraining and a significant increase in injury risk. More importantly, missing one workout will not impact your fitness in any meaningful way.
If you miss an important workout, like a long run during marathon training, take the time to examine and rearrange your schedule appropriately. Don’t simply force the missed run back into your current schedule.
Running Too Fast
Every runner loves when they crush a workout. Nothing feels better than exceeding expectations and soaking up the confidence from knowing you ran well ahead of pace. However, the feeling will likely be fleeting as your structural system attempts to recover from the excess strain you subjected it to.
As I’ve covered thoroughly in two other articles, here and here, running faster than your prescribed training paces is one of the quickest routes to injury. Running faster might be well within your aerobic capabilities. However, we know that the structural system (muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones) often lag behind your aerobic fitness. As a result, running faster might have stressed muscles in your hips or feet that weren’t strong enough yet to support such intense paces.
Remember that no singular workout is the key to success. The only “secret” to faster running is healthy, consistent training.
Not Enough Focus On Injury-Prevention Work
Research has shown us that structural weaknesses are a primary factory in most running injuries. For example, there is a strong relationship between a lack of hip strength and running knee injuries (runner’s knee, IT band syndrome, and patella tendonitis). As such, one of the easiest and most effective ways to stay injury-free is to include core and hip strengthening routines into your training schedule.
Unfortunately, most runners already have a difficult time fitting in all the miles, never mind finding time for strengthening exercises. So, they skimp on the strength and preventive training in favor of running more miles (I’ve been guilty of this too). However, a much wiser decision is to include strength and preventive training, even if it’s at the expense of a few miles.
Impressive mileage totals won’t do you any good if you get hurt after three or four weeks. The miniscule metabolic benefit a few additional miles is nothing compared to month after month of healthy, consistent training.
The next time you’re faced with the decision of whether to run an extra two miles or getting in your injury-prevention work, think long-term and remember how much being injured stinks.