Taking care of your running body

Top 10 tips for long-term, injury-free running

If you are a novice runner, it can be a temptation to dive straight into a heavy running schedule. However, before you start out, it is essential to keep in mind our top running advice to make sure you remain free of injury. From staying hydrated for your runs to resistance training, here are our tips on taking care of your body during your running training.

You are a runner - so your training primarily needs to involve running.  
Specific training for a specific form of exercise is the best type of training - if you think about it, no-one would expect to become a good cricket player if they hardly ever picked up a bat or ball.

However, maintaining the ability to run free of injuries week after week and making sure that you are get the most out of your training will require more than only running. It will require paying attention to a number of other disciplines in order to keep up your flexibility and strength and prevent any injuries.

If you wish to run without encountering difficulties, here is's essential advice on taking care of your running body. If you follow these you'll quickly be well on the way to running training that is long term, injury free and enjoyable.

Footwear for running
Our most important piece of advice is to invest in the right footwear. Wearing trainers that have little cushioning is certainly a no-no, but buying new running shoes only every decade is out of the question as well. Well fitting, good quality, functional shoes for running are essential and if you only purchase one item of running gear, a pair of shoes should be  it. Depending on your bodyweight and the type of shoe you buy, a new pair of running shoes should last from 300 to 800 miles and will protect your muscles, skeleton, and of course feet. When you plan to buy a pair, make sure you go to a specialist running retailer first, as they will be able to give you advice on the different models, provide you with a gait assessment and allow you to try the shoes out before you purchase them.

After running, stretch your muscles
Frequent flexibility training is an excellent way of preventing muscle strains and pulls. Running's repetitive nature can cause muscles to tighten and shorten, which flexibility training can prevent. Ideally, you should try to stretch all of your major leg muscles after each session - but if this proves to be too time-consuming, concentrate on ten minutes of quality stretching twice every week after a run. Regard it as exercise that is highly likely to enhance your training and help you to keep running in the long term, rather than as something that takes up valuable running time.

Boost your running by having a massage
One of the most underrated aids available to people in running training is regularly regular sports massage. Running will cause micro damage to your muscles which, if you leave it untreated, is likely to eventually cause injury and a build-up of scar tissue. Also, if you factor the rigours of racing into the equation, the issue will be compounded. It is no coincidence that marathon runner Paula Radcliffe spends a lot of time having massages as part of her running programme to maintain her body's condition. Every couple of months or directly after a race, try to get a full leg massage, as this will flush out any toxins, realign the fibres of your muscles and help to make sure you can continue to run week after week.

Sensibly build up your running
A runner's brain is a curious thing, as it can trick us into thinking we're fitter than we actually are. If you have had some time out from running due to being injured or ill, having been on holiday or having had other commitments to deal with, it can be a temptation  to dive back into your running straight away at the point where you left off. However, this is a recipe for breakdown. Rather than doing this, gradually reintroduce your body to regular training by following the '10% rule', whereby you increase your running distance by no more than 10% every week. In a similar way, when you are preparing for a race, try to avoid being tempted to run a lot of miles early on in your training programme, as this again may result in illness or injury.

Don't race too often
Racing is many runners' raison d'être - the only reason why they run. For other runners, races serve as excellent focus points for their training runs. Whether you fall into the first or second category, racing too much is likely to result in injury, staleness or injury. Racing events are much more demanding than training runs; your adrenaline will flow freely, your competitive instincts will take over and you will aim to get a certain time or to finish ahead of a rival. This is all good - but it's important to realise that this additional effort will take more out of you than your training does, both physically and psychologically, so try to limit your racing events to a chosen few in order to avoid injury or breakdown.

Purchase a heart rate monitor (HRM) to enhance your training
Probably the best training tool for running, a HRM is essentially a personal trainer on your wrist. Beginner models are now as inexpensive as a stopwatch, and even more technical models are still not too expensive. A HRM will ensure you get more out of your training runs, and ensure that you don't over train by attempting to blaze through each training session and that you train at the correct intensity for every workout.

Do resistance training
Resistance training is very important for building overall strength and thereby protecting you against injury. Instead of turning you into a muscular heavyweight, doing the right weight training will increase your strength, help to improve your general posture and boost your running economy - i.e. how efficiently your running is. A couple of all-over body sessions every week should markedly improve your all-round strength and, rather than hindering your race performance, should make sure you cross the finishing line in decent condition - and perhaps even enable you to finish before your club rival!

Remember your core training
Core training - i.e. exercise that involves working the postural muscles deep in your abdomen - will ensure you become a stronger and more efficient athlete, full stop. Your abdominal muscles act as the chassis that supports the rest of your body, and having a strong chassis means you will have a strong body. A few minutes spent exercising with static core exercises or with a stability ball every week will help to prevent injuries and provide you with efficiency and strength benefits that you'll notice during your training and races.

Keep hydrated during your training
It's a tough challenge for many people; but staying fully hydrated is even more important when you're in running training. Not staying properly hydrated during your runs will result in dehydrated muscles and reduced blood volume, which in turn will lead to nausea, headaches and fatigue.. So, try to drink regularly and often throughout the day, concentrating on non-caffeinated, natural drinks such as water and fruit juices, and by doing so you will flush away toxins and perform and feel better.

Maintain the correct intake of protein
Protein is of great importance to runners, as every strike of your foot on the ground will damage blood cells, and the repair necessary to make amends for this can be as much as that needed by a bodybuilder. Also, longer training runs are likely to strip protein out of your body for use as fuel, so it's essential that you replace it on every day - especially if you are a long distance specialist such as a marathon runner. Aim to consume low-fat types such as fish and lean meat rather than mince or untrimmed fatty cuts. Try to get up to 1½g of protein per kg of bodyweight every day when you're in intensive training.

In conclusion...

Obviously your training needs to be primarily about running, but including other types of training and related activities into your weekly programme will help to improve your performance while running - and just as importantly, your pleasure. Whatever your ultimate aim is, by paying some attention to the suggestions outline dhere you'll not only get the most out of your running, but you'll also be able to succeed in achieving the main goal of all runners - to keep being able to train in the long term.


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