How To Avoid The Most Common Running Injuries

Our very own running expert, Don Bickerdike, weighs in on the best ways to avoid running injuries during your routine.

Take the challenge and avoid injury. We are all prone to injury in general, and many runners already have an existing injury that needs treatment on some level. Unless we take an educated and proactive method in our course of training, injury is inevitable. Being proactive and preventive in training results in conserving energy for the next run. Those who rest and run away preserve the strength to run another day. The best ways to avoid injury are to train under your threshold while focusing on the basics of proper warm-up, form, and cool down, while staying hydrated and getting proper rest, nutrition, flexibility, and strength. (Since common injuries can easily be researched on any search engine, I am not providing an extensive list of common injuries.)

Perhaps you are not up for the challenge. Being proactive takes effort, and one might feel reluctant to do what is necessary. This includes training at 75% to 80% of the effort and level at which you want to train. Many often ignore this warning and refuse to prevent themselves from over-training. You must begin to focus on the basics and “hold back” your intensity.

Listen to the “old dogs.” Increase your arsenal of great experts, the ones who stand the test of time. At the onset of the slightest indicator of potential injury, consult your experts, taper off, rest, research, then proceed with caution. Though complete avoidance of injuries is the ideal, it is better to dramatically reduce your training intensity and duration once you become aware of any potential injury.

Choosing to take this challenge means that every detail counts. Choose to be proactive and preventative and commit to this goal. This takes time, research, and action. Once you are committed to the goal of avoiding injury, you must remain disciplined in holding yourself back from over-training, even though you crave more miles or intensity.

Be determined to go through a metamorphosis. Set goals to become injury free, tell supportive people, and then take regular actions toward those goals. You may find that you can greatly benefit from changing your running form. Commit to wearing appropriate running gear that accommodates better form and protects you in your environment. Practice longer periods of stretching before and after a run and increase the amount of time you warm up (at a much slower pace than usual.) Be aware of your environment; be prepared for the weather conditions and your terrain (slopes, grades, surface material, debris, etc.)

We have all been challenged by potential injury at some point in our training. We have all had our failures when challenged with these running injury trials. Once you obtain any given injury, there are many resources available to help you determine the most appropriate course of treatment. In general, treatments are fairly standard and include decreasing the duration and intensity of your workouts. This week’s article is not about how to treat injuries per se, but it is about how to avoid injuries to begin with: in general, do not exceed your modest threshold and stay within a “moderate safe-zone” for all areas of your life.

“Fluidity” in your form, and your life, is the goal. Visualize your ultimate outcome and success. When everything matches up you can experience fluidity. I encourage you to watch clips of runners in motion. Study their form. Try to imagine yourself as having that same fluid form as those you research. Running is symmetrical, fluid, scientific, and calculated. Ellipses, angles, and laws of gravity are the playground to a fluid runner. Imagine what your form would be like if you could run slow motion in the water while cutting through the water with the least amount of resistance and while using the most amount of gravity to help propel you forward.

Do not be tempted to over-train. Many are tempted to push training too hard when they begin feeling better, thinking they can go above and beyond the original safe and conservative plan. Your compulsion to escape, your compulsion to achieve the “no pain, no gain” attitude (or whatever your nemesis is) this will defeat you if you do not face it, accept it, and work around it in advance.

It is time to say good-bye to bad habits, bad form, and your excruciating and relentless notions that you have to push your training harder at the expense of your fragile, damaged and overworked body. Less is more. Run for health, not for injury. When one can remove the Nemesis (perhaps in your case it is the compulsive urge to push beyond safety limits to counteract the stresses or anxieties in your life) then you can achieve the goal of running free from injury, free from burdens, and finally experience fluidity.

Imagine being so healthy and injury free that you feel you could run forever. It is easy to get caught up in the world of running when you have achieved both fitness and freedom from injuries. At this stage, it would be easy to dedicate all of your spare time to unlimited running. However, the goal at this stage is to stay within a reasonable threshold and teach others. Reach out to other people to help them achieve the same goals you have achieved in a safe and healthy manner. Though we all run our race to get to the prize at the finish line, it is equally important as to how we run our race before we get there.

Take a break when it is needed. There may come a time when you must temporarily or permanently retire your running shoes for other types of training or exercise. If and when that time comes, recognize that there is honor in preserving your health versus risking permanent injuries. Learn to know the difference and anticipate the possibility; accept your limits and find ways to avoid further injuries. Sometimes our repeated injuries become the guide that tells us to back off, taper down, and possibly even retire to the idea of much longer periods of rest. Preventing injuries will allow you to enjoy running for many years prior to having to hang up your running shoes. Make the best of these years and pace yourself. This could mean that you know the logical progression of how overtraining (or having less efficient form) can result in injuries, and then brilliantly recognizing that it is more important to play it safe than to push one’s training too hard.

Find the balance. The ultimate balance is being able to push the threshold of training to increase the mileage and intensity without causing injury. The most challenging part of this stage is that often times, the signs or symptoms of injury do not show up during the training session, and if they do, they are likely the result of a previous training session in which you were oblivious to the onset.

Always leave your workout wanting more. Pace yourself and get into the habit of allowing yourself a “buffer.” Adapting to live in a “training safe zone” allows you to enjoy any run, any terrain, and under any circumstances…safely. Quieting the critical voices in our lives (that prod us into pushing harder beyond what is safe), taming the unbridled compulsions (to escape our busy lives and run away from the world temporarily), this is the success of living free in the moment when faced with any challenge. We reserve for ourselves the energy it takes to enjoy the world around us versus those who exhaust their entire existence by pushing 100% all the time with no allotment for resting. Those who rest and run away, preserve the strength to run another day.

“Until our running paths cross again: Run with Passion!” – D.P. Bickerdike

Whether I sit, stand, or run, I conservatively and passionately rest in my KURU shoes: the best shoes I have ever worn. I can’t imagine wearing any other pair of shoes after my success in these fabulous shoes. My KURU shoes allow me to rest and avoid injury. They are the most comfortable shoes I have ever purchased or worn, and I wear KURUs in all of my waking hours. The KURU shoes are an important part of my preventative maintenance in avoiding injuries, allowing me to have pain-free feet so I can rest and train under my threshold to avoid injuries. I challenge you to include KURU shoes in your preventive maintenance, no matter what potential injuries you may be facing, now or in the future.