Unlike swimming and biking running is weight bearing and involves
compressive forces many times body weight. The eccentric (lengthening) muscle
contractions are also very hard on your body. If you are a large or heavy set
person; harder still. If you plan on running long term there are some basic
rules to follow which will keep you striding long term.
- Take at least 1-2 rest or active recovery days per week. This means no
impact giving your joints a rest from the pounding forces that running
produces. Less experienced runners may need 2-3 rest/recovery days per week.
- Perform no more than 1-2 "break through" or high intensity
interval work outs per week. Speed work puts more stress and the body, and
requires more recovery time. This type of training must performed
prescriptively and carefully. Try to schedule these key work outs directly
proceeding a rest or recovery day.
- Train in 2-3 day cycles, with a rest or recovery work out in between cycles
giving your body to some space to recover from and adapt to the training load.
Some athletes will need more rest and less training, especially as intensity
- Change your shoes out frequently. A good rule of thumb is at least 3x per
year for a high volume runner. You may want to write the date you purchased
your shoes in permanent ink on your shoes for reference. Buying shoes is
expensive, but so is your insurance deductible.
- Take the supplements Chrondroitin Sulfate and Glucosamine. I don't
recommend a lot of supplements, but this combination has shown promise in
clinical studies, and in control groups of people suffering from knee pain. One
works as an anti-inflammatory; the other helps regenerate cartilage. I know of
several orthopedic surgeons who are recommending the supplement to their
patients and it may be worth a try.
- Increase your volume of endurance training by less than 10% per week.
Bringing your mileage up too quickly is a sure fire way to promote injury. Your
body sustains stress (training) and is initially weaker from it, then
compensates and adapts to get stronger. If you put too much stress on your
body, it can't compensate and continues to break down.
- Listen to your body. In my experience your body gives you an indication
that you are about to sustain an overuse injury. This may be in the form of a
slight or nagging pain. If you stop training at that point, you will more than
likely be all right after a few days rest. If you try to push through the pain
you may end up with a more serious injury that can take weeks or months to
- Periodize your training. Periodization simply means administering the right
training at the right time. You prioritize your training into specific cycles
that move towards a goal (race). Your training moves from the general to the
specific and from low intensity to higher intensity as you approach your peak.
The implication is that you are performing your most race like training just
prior to your goal race. This means less stress on the body throughout the year
because you are not performing high intensity training all season long. An
experience running coach can help you set up an annual training plan
delineating your training cycles.
- Perform strength and flexibility exercises to keep your knees strong. One
of the more common overuse injuries is "runner's knee." This
inflamation is caused by the patella not tracking properly, much like a tire
that is out of alignment. By keeping your quadriceps flexible and strong,
particularly your vastus medialis, you can help prevent this condition. If you
are an endurance runner you do not need to overwork these muscles or use a lot
of weight, but light strength work performed correctly can help prevent injury.
- Cross train. One of the benefits that multi-sport athletes have over
runners is that they are able to perform swim and cycling work outs in between
run work outs. This helps reduce the stress caused by the pounding of running,
but the athlete still receives the aerobic benefit of training. A good time to
cross train is when you have a less specific recovery work out scheduled or a
lower intensity base work out. If you use a heart rate monitor you can stay in
the same heart rate zone as your prescribed run work out. Swimming, cycling,
stepper, elliptical trainer, or even hiking are all good examples of cross
training work outs.
An eleventh I would add is to run properly. Unfortunately this is not a
quick fix. If you are over-striding or running with a very low stride count
your impact forces increase. By addressing your form you will put less stress
on your body. Video analysis is a great way to identify and work on your form
Matt Russ is a professional coach with over two decades of experience
working with athletes up to the professional level. His athletes have achieved numerous regional,
national, and international titles under his direction. Matt has achieved the highest level of
licensing by both USA Triathlon and USA Cycling, and is a licensed USA Track
and Field Coach. His accomplishments
include being named "Team USA" Coach by USA Triathlon. Matt is Head Coach and owner of The Sport
Factory, a USA Triathlon Certified Performance Center located in Roswell,
Georgia. Visit www.sportfactory.com for more information or
email him at firstname.lastname@example.org