We have all known the endurance athlete who never seems to become injured. There is also the athlete who has been running for three years and has spent more time injured than able to run. What does the healthy runner know that the other does not?
No sudden changes
Training adjustments are necessary to stimulate adaptation, strength, and fitness. If these changes are too sudden, the body may not have time to appropriately adjust and injury can occur. There is a general rule to never increasing mileage more than 10% weekly. If you want to include speed work into your training, add it in gradually. The same goes for road running if you have spent the majority of your time on the trails, running longer on the weekend, wearing different shoes, etc. Patience is a great tool to practice in regards to running!
Try to get in a little bit of training every day. You become best at what you habitually do. Sporadic training can result in strength and fitness decreases between periods of running. Athletes may think they can pick up where they left off, however the body may not be as ready as the mind.
Strong muscles help stabilize and protect the body while running. Tendons and ligaments strengthen as muscles do. Developing soft tissue will help support joints and help prevent injury.
Train properly for your events
While people may be able to get through a marathon off of 15 miles of running per week, they are much more likely to come out of it injured than someone running 40 miles weekly. This also includes training on similar terrain as the targeted event, such as roads, mountains, trails, or heavy downhills.
Knowing when to run hard and when to run slowly is very important. Many runners make the mistake of going medium hard all of the time. This results in less recovery and compromised hard runs. Many athletes stick with two or three key sessions a week, either ran hard or long. Between these runs are very easy sessions that benefit fitness, but do not hinder recovery or adaptation.
Know when to back off and rest
Being able to let go of one’s ego and decrease or stop running can be the difference between taking two weeks off of running or becoming injured and being unable to run for five months. Running in the short term (days & weeks) makes little difference in the long run of months and years.
This includes learning how to run in a way that is healthy, as well as wearing running shoes that allow the body to run in a real fashion. Doing so can result in more economic and a less harsh running form.
Run for a long time
This is likely the most important “secret”. Someone who has been running for three decades is much less likely to become injured than someone who has been running for two years. A lifelong runner has hopefully learned all of the above pieces of knowledge. Luckily for you, there are many resources available now to teach these. It is just up to the learner to acknowledge and implement the information.
Unfortunately the secret is, there are no secrets. Practicing patience and being able to let go of one's ego likely play the largest roles in having a long and healthy running career.
What other secrets would you share to newer runners?