» Most Valuable Tips for Running Injury-Free

Most Valuable Tips for Running Injury-Free

October 22, 2012 | Steven McElwee

Several months ago, I had to cut back on running. I was suffering from shin splints, foot pain, and leg soreness. My solution was easy – cut back on running. It seemed I was overtraining. I had been running around 18 miles each week, but my time in between runs was so preoccupied with recovery, that I knew something was wrong. Since then, I have taken a lot of advice and read as much as I could about injury prevention. 

By applying what I learned and using trial-and-error I can summarize the most valuable running advice in two main tips. By applying these tips, I was able to quickly ramp back up and exceed my previous distance and run faster than my previous times. In just a few weeks, I was up from 16 miles per week to 26, with a one minute and 45 second per mile faster pace. 

What is more important is that even after my most challenging runs, I feel great. My mindset has changed from “How can I recover before my next run in two days?” to “Is it okay for me to run every day, since I feel so good?”. 

So what are the two tips for injury-free running?

1. Improve your running form

The biggest breakthrough I had was by using the Chi Running method, by Danny and Katherine Dreyer. Dreyer’s method is straight-forward. If you are experiencing pain in your running, you must have something wrong in your form. Dreyer recommends focusing on a straight posture, a forward lean, short strides, and a mid-foot strike that does not land ahead of the body, but is slightly behind because of the forward lean. In Chi Running, the focus is not on how the foot should strike the ground as much as it is on how to pick up the foot and allow gravity to pull you forward. I cannot cover the Chi Running method in this post, but I highly recommend Dreyer’s book, Chi Running.

2. Use minimalist shoes

The second breakthrough was actually an earlier one that I stopped following for a short time. I have been training with minimalist shoes for several months, but I always kept my distances within three miles, since I was pushing off with the ball of my foot, making my calves sore. For longer runs, I was using cushioned shoes. When I wore my cushioned shoes, I found myself running longer and faster, but it took some time for me to correlate that to injuries. It turns out that the cushioning was masking issues with my running form. When I finally figured this out, I stopped wearing cushioned, stability sneakers altogether. By using the form and foot placement I learned with Chi Running, in about three weeks, I was able to ramp up from three miles to 11 miles in minimalist shoes with no pain afterward. If you have not bought your first pair of minimalist running shoes, consider New Balance Minimus. I love wearing them for my runs.

Now that I have applied these two tips to my running, the only question that remains is, “What are my limits in distance and speed?” I’m looking forward to finding out.

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