There is a school of thought in the running world that trainings errors are the primary cause of injuries. I for one don’t buy it and I will tell you why. The idea behind training errors is that you have some magical progression or volume level that if you adhere to you will never get injured. There is some truth to this. If you never run you will never get a running injury. The fact is if you are not able to increase your mileage or intensity beyond a certain level, you can not get anywhere near your potential as a runner. Improvement as a runner comes from being able to increase mileage. If you are constantly stuck at 40 miles a week you are going to have a hard time making significant gains. That somehow your body knows what volume, surfaces, intensities, and workouts that will amazingly give you an injury free running body does not pass the common sense test. As a runner who struggled with injuries for many years after college, this is complete bullshit. I remember in high school that no mater what the coach threw at me, I did not get injured. My body was resilient enough to comfortably deal wth anything. As I got older this changed. Now in my forties I take longer to recover and hardly ever take a nap after a hard workout or long run.
So why is it that so many coaches and runners think that there is a magical formula for injury free running? It is a simplistic solution to a much more complex problem. Running is an incredibly complex biomechanical activity. Simply saying that you need to reduce the amount you do it to stay injury free is a cop out. If this were true elite runners going at 100 to 120 miles per week would be injured all the time. The fact is that they aren’t. Advocates of the training error myth will say that their bodies have adapted to the load and you just aren’t there yet. So how do I get there? The answer is in running specific strength training. I am a huge fan of Jenny Simpson. Olympic medalist and certified badass. In this great video that came out before the 2015 world championships, you hear her coach talk about the aerobic metabolism. Meaning Jenny does a lot of long running. What you also see in the video is Jenny doing is a ton of running specific strength work and drills. Same thing with this video of Meb.
If your feet, ankles, and hips are not conditioned to deal with the stress of running, your body transfers that stress to other tissues, which eventually cause a breakdown and leads to injury. If we spent more time focused on the biomechanics of the stride and what the body needs to be able to do to run successfully, we’d all be much better off and injury rates would drop though the floor. This focus on slowly increasing mileage and intensities has only gotten us so far, and more importantly, has not actually reduced injury rates. What has worked for me over the past few years is running specific strength work. I have not been able to avoid all injuries, but I have vanquished many (ITBS, plantar fasciitis, posterior tibialis tendonopathy) from my recurring injury cycle. If you have struggled with injuries and have not yet given strength work a try give it a go.
If you need help coming up with a strength program or how to get started, drop me a line and I’ll help you out.
Enjoy the Run.
Recently a friend of mine signed up for a marathon and asked me for some training advice. He said that he was “not becoming a runner” and that the marathon was a bucket list item for him. There are lots of reasons why people run. I get it. The problem is that the marathon doesn’t give a shit that you want to check it off your list. It’s still 26.2 miles.
The marathon requires you to be committed on a level that your local 5k or 10k or half marathon does not. To properly train for a marathon you have to significantly change your life. You cannot just add on a sprinkle of running like some salad dressing and expect to run a successful marathon. There’s a reason why many elite runners take 4 or 5 marathons to just figure the race out. It’s hard. It’s really hard. There are no shortcuts. No quick fixes. No secret hacks. Running a marathon is a lot of work and a lot of it is running.
So when my friend said that he wanted to run under 9 minute miles and only run 4 times a week and keep doing crossfit and still do a multi day cycling event in the middle of the training cycle I told him he needed to adjust his expectations. You can bullshit your way through a 5k. You can half ass your 10k preparation and still be okay. If you ignore the long runs, recovery, sleep, strength work, nutrition, race day logistics, any one of those things can easily ruin your marathon. Any. Single. One. (That’s not to mention things like weather and the course that you have absolutely no control over). I love running and I love runners. Do yourself a favor and show the marathon the proper respect. That’s the only way to even give yourself a chance to be successful come race day.
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- Poop before you run. This is vitally important. You need to void your bowels before getting out on the trail or the road or the track. A few miles in you will notice some changes. You may be able to get by with not doing this for a short run but for the long runs it is a must. This is why the portajohn lines are so long in the minutes before the start of the race. This is also a good reason to have some coffee in the morning. In addition too being a great energy booster for your run, coffee helps to keep everything moving. If you forget, just remember that you can finish a run without socks… Just in case.
- Incorporate a dynamic warm up and cool down. This is one that I learned fairly recently. I had been warming up and cooling down with the same static stretches I did in high school. Once I realized that static stretching is a huge waste of time, I went to something different. I tried to stretch my way out of an ITBS injury to no avail. Once I started incorporating dynamic warm ups and cool downs, my injuries are at worst under control and nonexistent at best. If you need a routine, Jay Johnson, Jason Fitzgerald , and RunnersConnect all have great warm up and cool down routines for you to try.
- If you’re injured, a physical therapist will probably be a better resource than a physician. This one is also recently learned. Whenever I have gone to the doctor for a running injury, they have advocated for me to stop running. Almost every time I’ve been smack dab in the middle of a training cycle. The physician has also never been able to tell my why the injury actually happened or what to do to prevent that injury in the future. A physical therapist takes a different approach . As experts in the biomechanics they often understand injury mechanisms very, very well and can give you specific exercises to heal and to prevent the injury in the future. Sometimes self diagnosis and googling a physical therapy protocol are all you need to do in order to get better and back on the road.
- Double knot your shoes and tuck the laces in. I have always double knotted my shoes since I started running. Every once in a while they would come undone. After I started tucking them in they never come untied. I picked up tucking in the laces from Carrie Tollefson. She’s an olympian, mom, and an absolutely fantastic race commentator. She’s also got a great YouTube channel. Her video on lacing your shoes is here.
- Racing well is going to hurt. There is no way around it. If you want to get the most out of yourself on race day you will have to endure a degree of pain for a significant period of time. All growth is uncomfortable, and you do a lot of growing in the second half of a marathon. Learn to deal with the suffering in your training runs and race day will still hurt, but you will be better able to deal with the pain. As you get better as a runner, it does not get easier you just become better at managing the suffering.
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