Keys to Running Healthy and Staying Injury-Free

Follow these rules, and you’ll spend more time on the road and less time in rehab.

To Running Healthy and Staying Injury-Free:

AVOID THE TERRIBLE TOO’S. Doing too much, too soon, too fast is the number-one cause of running injuries. The body needs time to adapt to increases in mileage or speed. Muscles and joints need recovery time so they can handle more demands. If you rush that process, you could break down rather than build up. So be the tortoise, not the hare. Increase your weekly and monthly running totals gradually.

Follow the 10 percent rule: Build your weekly mileage by no more than 10 percent per week. So if you run 10 miles the first week, run 11 miles the second week, about 12 miles the third week, and so on. There may be times when even a 10 percent increase proves too much. Use the 10 percent rule as a guideline, but realize that it might be too aggressive for you.

LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. Most running injuries don’t just come out of nowhere and blindside you. Usually, there are warning signs—aches, soreness, and persistent pain. It’s up to you to heed those signs. If you don’t, you could hurt something else as you try to change your gait to compensate for the pain.

Running Healthy

Running Healthy

GET GOOD SHOES. Running shoes have changed a lot over the years, and there’s a dizzying variety of models, brands, and types to choose from. There are even minimalist shoes designed to mimic barefoot running (although there’s no scientific evidence that forgoing shoes decreases injury risk).

There’s no single best shoe for every runner—your goal is to find the one that offers the best support and fit for your unique anatomy and biomechanics. Don’t buy a shoe just because it’s the cheapest, because it “looks fast,” or because it matches your favorite workout gear.

You should replace your shoes every 300 to 500 miles. Note the date that you bought your shoes in your training log so that later you’ll know when it’s time for a change. And when it’s time to buy, visit a specialty running store—the staff there will ask you lots of questions, watch you walk or run, and take other steps to help you find the right shoe.

TAKE GOOD NOTES. A detailed workout log can help keep you motivated and injury-free. Take some time after each workout to jot down notes about what you did and how you felt. Look for patterns. For instance, you may notice that your knees ache when you run on consecutive days, but you feel great when you rest in between running days. This will help you determine the best routine for you. Plus, it will help get you out the door when the going gets tough. You can draw confidence from seeing all the miles pile up. And the next workout doesn’t seem as daunting when you see how much you’ve already accomplished. There are lots of online training logs available, like the one here, but a notebook and a pencil work just as well. Here are some data that you should consider including in your training diary:

Daily or weekly goal
Mode of exercise (run, elliptical, swim, bike, etc.)
Distance (in miles or kilometers)
Workout time in minutes
Weather conditions
Time of workout (this can influence how you feel)
Route and terrain (hills, treadmill, track, trail)
How you feel before, during, and after the run
Shoes and gear used
Interesting things you saw along the way
Notes about the people you ran with
Find more information on training logs here.

CROSS-TRAIN. Running is hard on your body, there’s no doubt about it. So experts agree that most runners can benefit from cross-training activities to help improve muscle balance and stay injury-free. Swimming, cycling, elliptical training, and rowing will burn a lot of calories and boost your aerobic fitness.