Avoiding the training mistakes that lead to running injuries

The worst thing for a runner is to be injured. Not only is physical pain a problem but also having an injury reduces your ability to train and affects your performance. 60-70% of all running injuries are caused by training errors. If we can limit training errors then hopefully we can reduce the chances of getting a running injury. 

Top 10 mistakes runners make that lead to injury

1.Too much too soon

Mistake number one is increasing your training volume, intensity or duration too quickly. An analogy I like is that running injuries are like hangovers. You get one from overdoing it, and as soon as you feel better you go and do it all over again. When you’re running, in order to avoid injury you should only increase one aspect of your training at a time. Once you feel comfortable at a certain distance or pace you can increase it by about 10%. But, don’t increase both pace and distance. Either try to run the same distance quicker or add distance to your run and keep the speed the same. A good rule to follow is “the rule of two” once you have two runs of the same distance and the same speed that feel comfortable then it is safe to increase your distance. 

2. Too much high intensity training

Another issue runners face is the idea of “no pain, no gain”

We feel we have to push hard during every session to get the benefits. In reality this can lead to running related injuries. And, it isn’t even an effective way to boost your performance. In order to get the best from your performance you should have roughly 20% of your sessions be of high intensity and then the other 80% are slower low intensity runs for building endurance without risking injury.

3. A poor weekly/monthly plan (or no plan)

Having a poor plan or no plan at all can lead to injury. For example, you need a long run in your week when training for the marathon and you need some strength training. But if you do a lower body weight session on Monday and your longest run of the week is on Tuesday its going to be detrimental to your performance and also cause risk of injury. Poor plans also overlook recovery and often have too many training days. At the same time, while a plan is important don’t be too rigid to your plan. If you need to run a 10 mile run by June but you got the flu in May then it may be best to push that 10 mile goal down the road a bit. 

4. Returning too quickly after time off

This is most often seen in January/February after a break over Christmas you try to jump back in where you were but one too many chocolates and no runs may be the cause of an injury that stops you running altogether. In order to avoid that it’s best to ease back into your training after a break. Especially if that break in training was due to an injury in the first place.

5. Trying to keep up with the Joneses 

One of the worst things we do is try to do what everyone else is, if you aren’t a professional don’t train like one. Professional athletes have extra no job, so chances are if you’re at a desk from 9-5 then it’s best not to copy Eliud Kipchoge’s training plan. Make a plan that works for you and don’t try to overdo it to keep up with somebody else. A big ego is one of the biggest risks for injury!

6. Not recovering

Often times a lack of recovery leads to injuries. Sometimes the time we aren’t training is as important as the time we spend training. In order to recover properly we need to make sure that you are sleeping between 7 and 9 hours a night. On top of that it is also a good idea to make sure you are eating enough. Too many consecutive days in a calorie deficit may also lead to injury. It may be a good idea for you to plan a recovery week into your training schedule. A recovery week every 4 to 6 weeks of training is a good idea. Recovery weeks don’t have to have no runs but they can have some shorter sharper runs than usual. 

7. Trying to reach a goal too quickly

Running isn’t like cramming for an exam, extra runs the days before a competition aren’t going to help you. Runners can often be guilty of signing up for a new challenge but not allowing themselves sufficient time to train fully. This can cause injury because a bit like the first mistake, in order to train for a race runners often cram extra-long runs in where they should and end up with an overload injury 

8. Ignoring strength training

Strength training is often overlooked by runners and it is a key part of reducing the chances of injury. It is often overlooked for two reasons. One, runners can be afraid that strength training will ‘bulk’ them up and slow them down. This isn’t true. Secondly, they don’t realise the benefits strength training can have on performance. Strength training firstly improves performance because it reduces the chances of injury, if you get injured you can’t train. If you don’t train you won’t improve. Also, strength training that supplements running training has been shown to improve time trial performance and maximal sprint speed.

9. Ignoring bone health

Bone injuries are among the most detrimental to a runners performance because often with a bone stress injury or a stress fracture runners have to stop running altogether to allow healing. In certain cases stress fractures are treated the same as a normal fracture and have to be non-weight bearing for 6-8 weeks. That’s 6-8 weeks of no training and losing muscle and aerobic capacity. Bone health needs to be protected. Running is helpful for bone health yes but recovery is equally important. Most important for bone health within runners is getting 7-9 hours sleep and eating enough calcium and vitamin D. Especially if you are dairy free you will have to focus on your calcium and vitamin D intake.

10. Putting too much emphasis on flexibility 

In order to improve flexibility, runners will often spend time stretching and foam rolling, neither of these things are bad per se (although please don’t foam roll your IT band, that’s just poking the bear if it’s already sore!). So if stretching or foam rolling aren’t bad why are they a mistake? Well, they’re a mistake because the time spent doing that could be spent instead focusing on better things to make you more robust and reduce the chances of injury. 

If you would like more information on injury prevention or rehab please check out our Run Clinic section of our website here

Tommy Brennan

Tommy Brennan

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