Is one of your New Year’s resolutions to train for a race? Then staying injury-free is crucial. While runners sometimes get hurt for no apparent reason, there are many ways to decrease the likelihood of an injury.
Jason Karp, PhD, 2012 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year and author of Running for Women (Human Kinetics 2012) and Running a Marathon For Dummies (Wiley 2012), offers suggestions for staying healthy as you train for your race.
Increase your weekly mileage by no more than 1 mile per day. If you currently run 20 miles per week in 4 days, for example, run no more than 24 miles next week, adding just 1 mile to each of the 4 days. Don’t add all 4 miles to only 1 day of running. (However, highly trained runners can get away with adding more miles more quickly, especially if they have experience running more miles.)
Give yourself a chance to adapt to each level of running before increasing the level. Maintain the same mileage for 3–4 weeks before increasing it. Also, back off training by about one-third for 1 recovery week before increasing the training load. If you have been running 30 miles per week for 3 weeks, back off to 20 miles for 1 week before going above 30 miles the next week.
Never increase volume and intensity at the same time. If you begin to include interval training in your program, either drop the overall mileage for the week or keep mileage where it was prior to adding interval training. Never add more miles to the week at the same time as introducing interval training. Make sure you give yourself time for adequate recovery. All adaptations from training occur during recovery from training, not during training itself.
Be sure that you wear the right running shoe for your foot type and running mechanics. Running shoes have specific combinations of support and stability designed for different running gaits. Cushioning shoes, best suited for runners with normal to high arches, promote adequate pronation to absorb shock upon landing. Stability shoes, best suited for runners with normal to low arches who slightly overpronate, allow only limited pronation and retain some cushioning characteristics. Motion-control shoes, best suited for runners with flat feet who severely overpronate, prevent pronation. Replace running shoes after 300-400 miles, at which time they begin to lose their shock-absorbing abilities.
Make sure that you eat enough to offset any high-caloric expenditure from running. Many runners do not eat enough to meet their needs for specific nutrients like calcium and vitamin D. This can put their bones at risk for injury. Low energy availability is a key risk factor for stress fractures, especially among female runners. Research indicates that you need to consume 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day and 400 International Units of vitamin D per day (Borer 2005). However, please see a licensed nutrition professional for specific guidance on supplementation.