How to Start Running | Part 4: 3 Ways to Avoid Injury


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As I have said and will continue to repeat: I am not a personal trainer or physician. However, over the past 3+ years I have managed to stay injury free (unless you count a few blisters and some boob chafing), so I feel like it's not completely ridiculous for me to offer advice on this topic.

For today's post, I want to focus on three things I feel are important to staying fresh and avoiding injury. That's not to say that even if you do these things you won't get injured, but it will reduce your risk.

1. Stretch

There's an ongoing debate about whether you really need to stretch before you start running. Me personally? I don't. I've noticed that the first few minutes of a run (or first few miles) are slower, and that's just me warming up.

There is, however, no debate about the importance of stretching after a run.

I used to not take the time to stretch or if I did, I would maybe stretch for 2-3 minutes after a run. Now I consistently spend 5-10 minutes stretching, and honestly, I really don't know why you wouldn't want to stretch. It feels so good, and it's a great reward for your hard workout. Well, that and chocolate milk. Amen.

Also, I can tell a difference when I haven't stretched. When I don't stretch, I'm more sore and tight the rest of the day and the next day as well. Here are a few links to stretching resources. You can find more helpful tips on my Fitness board on Pinterest.

-Lower Back Stretches for Runners
-Fit Tip: Stretch to Success
-A Stretch for Your Lower Back and Hips
-5 Injury-Prevention Stretches for Runners
-30-second stretches to do after a run

2. Stick to Your Training Schedule

I mentioned this in Part 3: Setting a Schedule, but it's important that once you set a schedule that works for you, don't compare yourself to what other people are doing

Example: Let's say you and a friend are signed up to run the same race at the same distance. But your friend has been running longer than you and has a personal goal in mind that's faster than your goal time. Or maybe your only goal is to finish.

Your schedule says to run 5 miles on a specific day, but your friend is running 7 miles. Should you try to run the seven miles with her? I would suggest not.

Now, obviously sometimes it's okay. Maybe you're ahead of your training, or your schedule ends up being too easy and you want to see if you can take it up a notch. However, in general, I strongly suggest sticking with the plan you had in mind when you started.

What I want to be clear about is that during training you will come across all kinds of people doing different mileage than you. Don't freak out and think you need to increase your training! You don't. Trust the schedule and listen to your body, and don't compare to what anyone else is doing.

Overuse leads to injury, and if you run too much too fast, you are almost guaranteed to hurt yourself. Just ask my dad, who got a stress fracture in his foot during marathon training due to overuse. The key is gradual increase. Whether that's in time or distance, only crazy people (like my brother) go out and run 13 miles with no training. Usually it doesn't end well.

3. Take Rest Days

First of all, every plan you will ever see includes at least 1 rest day a week. That means doing nothing and not feeling bad about it. You've earned rest and, more importantly, your body needs rest to recover and be stronger for the next time.

How many days a week you plan a rest day is up to you. For me, again, I have at least 2 rest days per week. Some people only have 1 rest day a week. Some people have 3. Neither is bad as long as you're doing what's right for you and your goals.

On top of scheduled rest days, you also should know that it's okay to take an unscheduled rest day. This is not something you should feel bad about or beat yourself up over. 

There are many different reasons to take an unscheduled rest day: scheduling conflict, weather, preventative injury rest, lack of sleep, feeling sick, and the list goes on. Obviously, taking an unscheduled rest day just because you "don't feel like running" is pretty lame, especially if you do it every time you have a run scheduled. However, sometimes you just need a rest! You aren't feeling the run, maybe you don't have time to squeeze it in, maybe you're starting to feel sick. Some people may disagree with me about this, but I say it's okay. 

You're not going to lose months' worth of training by skipping one or two runs, and forcing yourself to run if you just aren't feeling it is going to make running feel like a chore. This should not be the case the majority of the time, so if you really aren't feeling it, don't go! That's been my attitude about running since the beginning. For me it's helped keep running fun and something I look forward too instead of something that overtakes my life and makes me sad.

Here are a few additional articles to check out:

5 Things Runners Should Know About Knees
How to Prevent Common Running Injuries
Workouts to Injury-Proof Your Body

Don't miss today's featured running bloggers.
Make sure to check out their blogs and say hi to a fellow runner!

< Megan's Blog | Semi-Charmed Kind of Life >

< Beka's Blog | Sunshine to the Square Inch >


Do you agree with me about rest days? 
What other tips do you have to add about not getting injured? 

*I am not a personal trainer or physician. This post is not intended to offer medical advice. Contact your doctor before beginning a fitness routine or if you experience pain while exercising.
Amber Marie said...

This is a great post! I'm so glad you addressed stretching...I agree about the importance. I have been wanting to see some good resources about what kind and how long for awhile, so thanks for sharing! I also agree with you about rest days, they are so necessary! And I have noticed that the better you stick to your schedule, the more deserved feeling and enjoyable those days become!

Anonymous said...

Great advice, Amanda!

Over the years, I've learned the difference between good soreness and bad soreness. There's nothing so satisfactory as sore muscles after a hard run--it's a sign of a good workout. On the other hand, there's nothing so alarming as sore joints after a run--it's a sign of injury or injury-in-the-making. I'm no expert on the medical side of running, but my advice is this: Get to know your body!

Unknown said...

Great, great advice about those rest days! I always beat myself up about it, running until my body was pretty much broken/sore and I could barely get in the car. Bad plan ;) Setting realistic expectations really are so very important.

Betty said...

I am guilty of not taking enough time to stretch...this is something I definitely need to do more of!

Jen [wonderfully unkempt] said...

I love this series! I do not consider myself a runner. At all. But I enjoy 5ks and I have a goal to run one without walking. So these tips are awesome for someone like me!!

his little lady said...

Absolutely loving this series! I really need to be better at sticking to a schedule!
xo TJ

Kerry @ Till Then Smile Often said...

I really need to stretch more. I have had so many reoccurring injuries lately! :(

Beka @ Sunshine to the Square Inch said...

Yes a thousand times for rest days! They are so very important. Also, stretching is a MUST. If you don't stretch you can just count down the days until you get an injury. Thanks for hosting me on your blog today =)

Courtney @ Eat Pray Run DC said...

I don't ever stretch before running either -- and I've never read anything that has convinced me to do so. :) Much more important to stretch afterwards!

Jordan said...

I stretch before but not afterwards! My boyfriend has continually told me I need to stretch AFTERWARDS. He also always says this when I'm complaining about being sore. *light is going off in my head*

I will rearrange my workout to include a post-stretch and I bet that will help!

Megan said...

Thanks again for featuring me! And I really need to check out the stretching links you included; I am SO bad about stretching. That's changing tomorrow! :)

Unknown said...

Great points to guide our training! So much better to prevent than to deal with problems! I'm recovering from my first (minor) injury - a very painful heel from plantar fasciitis. Having to take a break from running due to injury sucks, so I highly recommend stretching and getting rest days in to prevent problems! Love this series btw!

eileen ragan | leaner by the lake said...

Totally saving those stretch guides. I found a few before on my own but those are especially helpful. And as for rest days - YES. I tend to guilt myself into skipping real rest sometimes, and my body always reminds me how important it is.

eileen ragan | leaner by the lake

Tamara said...

Love it! I think one of my biggest things as far as sticking with running has been allowing myself to be flexible with my schedule and not beat myself up about missing a run. Training for my half's, I've always focused on the long run as my 'must-do' and then just sticking as closely as possible to my schedule.

Amanda said...

Yes! I have noticed a huge difference when I started stretching after a run or workout.

Kendwy Valdez said...

Chocolate milk. Amen!
You really are so funny!
I started training a few weeks ago. I took your sneakers advice and went to a specialty store for them.
Trying to build up and hoping for no injuries ever.