In fact, for every 1,000 hours of running, the beginners got injured twice as often as those with more experience!
Now, these findings shouldn’t scare new runners away from the sport: it just means that improper technique, not the wear and tear of the actual sport, is most likely responsible for many running injuries.
Here are a few steps new runners can take to avoid injury and train smarter:
1. Switch up your runs
Almost all running injuries are the result of repetitive strain when a muscle, tendon, or bone reaches its breaking point after taking the same pounding again and again.
How to avoid this issue? Vary the forces you put on your body. Run on different surfaces at different paces for different times and distances and you’re less likely to experience a break down in one area of your body.
2. Build up slowly
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and marathon training shouldn’t be conquered in a few short weeks. When you’re just starting out with the sport, implement slow increases to your training schedule: think one extra mile each week, or one new short, easy training day each week. You’ll know your training add-ons are safe for your body if you don’t feel aches and pains in one specific area of your body.
3. Pick the proper shoes
Aside from choosing a generally supportive athletic shoe, select a pair that feel good from the first moment you slip them on. There should never be a ‘breaking in’ period when it comes to your running shoes. And if you think you'll get really serious about running, go to a specialty store and get fitted for a sneaker that works with your gait and foot type. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune or come with lots of bells and whistles—it just has to feel good and provide support in the areas in which you need it the most.
4. Improve your strength and flexibility
I can’t say this enough: runners need to cross train. Any kind of training regimen for runners should include exercises that strengthen a runner’s supporting muscles: core, hips, legs etc, not to mention less intense cardiovascular workouts to keep your endurance up without overloading your training muscles.
5. Find a friend (or friends!)
There’s power in numbers! Grab a pal or join a training group and start pounding the pavement together. The accountability, support and motivation will make it easier to stick to a new program.
6. Take breathers
Recovery time is crucial to runners—that’s your body repairs itself after the physical demands of exercise. Build rest days into your routine, make distance and speed increases gradually and be sure to stretch after every run, as it will keep you from stiffening up and experiencing post-running pain.
7. Focus on a goal...
But make sure it’s attainable. Sign up for a 5K, but not the week after you start training. Be sure and find goals that will keep you working hard, but won’t push your body past the limits of safety.
8. Tune in
Make sure you take note of how your body feels after each run. Ideally, the discomfort (if there was any) will lessen as you get stronger and train harder. Don’t ignore lingering pain—it could be a sign of a developing injury!
When taking the proper precautions, running is a sport that’s safe and effective for novices and old pros. For those who want more information on safe training methods for runners, come in for a consultation with Houston running doctor Andrew Schneider.