You’re training for a big race. You’re excited. You’ve had some great workouts, and you feel on top of the world. Then, BAM! – out of nowhere, you begin experiencing nagging aches and pain that require days or weeks of rest and recovery. Increasing mileage and intensity too quickly cause the majority of running injuries. To make it to the starting line healthy and strong, follow these steps to safely increase running mileage and prevent injury.
1. Gradually increase your mileage in safe increments. To reduce your risk of running injuries, increase your total weekly mileage by no more than 5 to 10 percent each week. For example, if you ran 20 miles last week, don’t run more than 22 miles the next week. Add mileage first to your long run, and then to your longer weekday training days or easy runs. After consecutive weeks of building mileage, drop your weekly mileage back every third or fourth week by 25 percent to deepen your recovery and help prevent the onset of injury.
2. Alternate hard training days with easy training days. Avoid running hard workouts on consecutive days. For instance, schedule an easy day or rest day between a speed workout, tempo run or long run. This will help your body recover and prepare for your next hard run. Easy days should be run about one to two minutes slower than your race pace. A slower pace will help you recover while building endurance.
3. Use your current fitness level to determine your training paces. Just like running too much too quickly can cause injury, so too can incorporating speed work too quickly at paces that are faster than your current fitness level. To predict how fast you should run speed workouts and other weekly runs, use your current 5K time, not a goal time that your body may not yet be in shape for. Learn how to determine speed work paces here. As your current fitness level increases (i.e., you run a faster 5K time), your speed interval paces can get faster.
4. Incorporate a proper warm up and cool down into every workout. Following a proper warm-up protocol that includes slow jogging and dynamic (not static) stretching before a tough workout will prepare your body and help your muscular structure work more effectively during training. This is especially critical before runs where your intensity is high and your pace is faster. Likewise, stretching following a run will help your muscles begin the recovery process. Learn how to do an effective warm-up and cool-down here.
5. Incorporate regular strength training. Incorporating strength training at least twice per week can enhance your performance by helping you maintain a stronger muscular structure and reduce muscle imbalances that lead to injury. By identifying weaknesses in our biomechanics and movements, we can focus on strengthening those areas to run stronger. This is one of my favorite hip and glute strengthening routines.
6. Give your body regular TLC. Regular sports massage, Epsom salt baths and stretching can do wonders for runners. Using at-home massage tools that focus on trigger points and muscle knots like Tiger Tail’s Curve Ball, Big One foam roller and the Classic Tiger Tail massage stick can help reduce muscle tightness and speed recovery without the added expense, making a huge impact to help reduce running injuries and muscle pain.
What other tips would you add to this list to prevent running injuries while increasing mileage? What tools do you use at home to make your muscles happy?
About Jesica D’Avanza
Jesica D’Avanza is a runner, triathlete, marathon coach and expecting mom-to-be. She is the writer behind runladylike.com, where she shares tips, advice and motivation to help runners of all abilities train smarter and finish stronger. You can follow her unladylike adventures of running and triathlon training on Twitter (@rUnladylike), Instagram (@runladylike) and Facebook.