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The 4 Secrets To Injury-Free Running
Why are runners so prone to injury? The answer’s simple, writes Jason Fitzgerald. It’s just two basic things.
And the cure? Well, that’s not too complicated either. Four simple steps that any runner can take.
A recipe for injury-free running
Coach Jason Fitzgerald is that rarity in the running world. Expert. Accomplished. And capable of converting years of experience, and the results of the latest research, into simple steps that any runners can follow.
A guest article by Jason for The Art of Manliness is a great example.
The coach argues that our vulnerability from injury stems from two simple things. How we run. And our modern lifestyle.
But there a few things we can do to dramatically reduce our vulnerability. And, as Fitzgerald knows from experience, when you are able to run injury-free and so consistently, that can have a wonderful impact on your running performance.
So what does a runner need to do to achieve that Holy Grail of injury-free running? Fitzgerald argues it simply boils down to following best practice in the four different areas outlined below.
Strength training for runners
Some think that being strong doesn’t matter for runners. Big mistake. There’s convincing evidence that strength training is a secret weapon for runners in the fight against injury.
Fitzgerald suggests a helpful core routine as a simple starting point:
I’d also recommend the RunnersConnect Strength Training for Runners programme, as developed by coach Jeff Gaudette, for runners looking for a more comprehensive solution. (It still has the step-by-step, easy to follow stamp of RunnersConnect courses – the same applies to the Proper Running Form course I mention below.)
Fitzgerald suggests a more proactive approach than most runners undertake. And that means interpreting your running programme flexibly.
Scheduled to do a hard workout today, but still feeling sore or exhausted? Then it’s time for a Plan B.
On this, Fitzgerald’s at one with another coach I respect hugely – Greg McMillan.
McMillan’s a keen advocate of tweaking training programmes significantly. In fact, in the excellent YOU (Only Faster), he argues the case for anticipating at what point you are likely to be particularly fatigued in your training schedule, given the type of runner you are.
This all sounds like common sense. And, yes, frankly it is. But it’s an area where many runners fail miserably.
Are we just slaves to our training plans?
Stop being so boring!
Most runners are creatures of habit. The same routes, the same distances, the same pace. And we wonder why overuse injuries are so common…
The key, argues Fitzgerald, is variety. That means mixing together very different levels of intensity across running workouts, including other types of session (most notably strength training) in your training programme, adding in different running surfaces (such as taking to the hills or trails), and rotating your running shoes.
Learn how to run
In short, Fitzgerald argues that you need three things. Run tall (think of the old trick of pretending there’s a string attached to the top of your head and someone’s pulling the string straight up in the air). Don’t over-stride (focus on putting your foot underneath your body). And keep your cadence up (something that research suggests will reduce impact forces on your legs).
Great advice, though I’m reminded of a story told by Jeff Gaudette of Runner’s World. A runner he coached read an article in Runner’s World. She then started to implement changes to her running form based on that article, without thinking about the knock-on implications for other aspects of her running form. The result? A stress fracture.
The approach I’ve adopted, and I’d recommend to any runner, is to take a logical approach to improving your running form. Planning adjustments one step at a time, taking your whole body into account.
That’s the RunnersConnect Proper Running Form course approach, which personally I’ve been following for a while now.
Post-script: Running injury-free
While Jason Fitzgerald highlights the role of our modern lifestyle’s at the start of his article, he doesn’t explore the issue further. But I think we all know what he’s getting at.
One resource in this area that I’ve found particularly useful is a series of anti-sitting exercises set out by Matt Fitzgerald.