Today, Coach Sage Canaday brings you his top FIVE ways of reducing your chance of a running injury. With the weather getting warmer, and races starting to pile on people’s calendars, there’s never a better time to stay injury free!

Although there are ways to get injured from certain “blunt force” type events (i.e., tripping and smashing your knee), we’ll mainly be focusing on the more preventable ways to stay injury-free. A lot of this type of injury risk can mainly stem from the miles that you put on your body. Here’s what Coach Sage has to say about all of this:

“Reducing your chance of getting injured is multi-faceted. There are things besides just your running that can help you stay injury free! For example, a lot of it has to do with being smart with your training. One has to recognize their own strengths and weakness while running with good form. Even though some of your injury risks could be partly due to genetics, there are still a lot of things within your control that I want you to focus on.

Tip #1: Optimize Your Lifestyle!

Optimizing your lifestyle in ways like a balanced diet, enough sleep, and overall taking care of yourself plays a huge role in preventing injury. Things like sleep are such a powerful tool we have at our disposal, and so often we tend to neglect it because “life” gets in the way. Don’t get me wrong – I totally get that it is not feasible for a lot of people to be sleeping 9+ hours a day. However, even choosing to go to bed 30 minutes earlier each night could have a dramatic impact on your overall recovery and injury risk. There are other small ways to take care of yourself, too:

  • Recovery tools like foam rollers or massage guns.
  • Focus on lowering your life stressors. Cortisol levels that you would get from lifestyle factors can affect the way your body responds to training.
  • Drinking enough water. This will not only help you during your runs but also has the ability to give you more energy throughout the day!

Tip #2: Very Gradually Introduce New Training Stress

You want to increase your weekly total volume slowly over time. You need to give your tendons and muscles time to adapt! The one thing I see far too often as a coach is people start to feel good, start running more than they should, run their easy days too hard, and hard days too easy, and it frequently ends in injury. Complete nearly 80% of your runs slow and relaxed – I promise it will reap huge benefits down the road! If you give your body time to get used to the pounding and give your lungs a chance to develop a strong aerobic engine, you’re doing yourself a favor in the long run. Things like speed work, quality long runs, and overall weekly volume should be built up slowly. For example, one week you run 20 miles(32k) and then the following week you run 25 miles (40km). This is the type of gradual progression I encourage.

Tip #3: Don’t go too fast on your easy days!

If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ve probably heard me say this before. But it’s true! Way too many runners, especially those new to the sport, take their easy days too hard. On my easy days, I should be running at a pace that I feel like I can run and have a conversation at all day long. I’m not having to pause to catch my breath, instead I’m talking to you like I would normally in a conversation, but only while running. When I go for my easy runs, I’m still thinking about good running form, but my mentality is to not force anything. Save your energy for when you need to do quality speed and track sessions!

Another thing I try to keep in mind for easy days is to still keep my cadence somewhere between 165 to no more than 190 steps per minute on flat ground on a road. If you have a stride rate that sits somewhere between that, it helps reduce impact stress (i.e., the force your body has to absorb when you strike the ground with each step). If you have a slower stride rate, you end up increasing the amount of impact stress per step. Poor form and injury risk could be a result of this.

Tip #4: Optimize Your Running Form

This plays well into what I was just talking about, because stride rate impacts your running form. However, there are other things to think about with running form as well. Although running form can vary from person-to-person, there are some key factors all runners should consider in order to stay injury free. Instead of diving into the specifics of what goes into a proper running form, you can find a bunch of FREE resources over on Higher Running’s website HERE.

Tip #5: Run on Softer Surfaces and Wear Proper Shoes!

We’re huge advocates for #AnySurfaceAnyDistance, and part of that reason is because running on different types of (soft) surfaces, will also help reduce your risk of getting injured. Generally speaking, trails are usually better than pavement. You can also switch things up by using a treadmill or running on the track. By no means do you always have to be on the lookout for only using softer surfaces, but switching things up with softer surfaces every once and awhile will help.

If you do run a lot on pavement, it’s worth the investment to get properly fitted shoes meant for running. If you have shoes with the correct type of foam, responsiveness, and durability, you’ll notice a huge difference in the “wear and tear” your body experiences. I realize that getting high quality running shoes is expensive, but I like to view it as an investment in myself. Better to spend the cash upfront on quality running shoes than to risk injury because I’m not in the proper footwear.

Hopefully these five tips serve as a starting point to having a long happy, healthy, and injury-free running career! Even if you do get injured, know that you are not alone. A lot of the time injuries is a part of this sport, and knowing how to handle them properly can be a whole other newsletter itself! We’ll see you again next week.