I recently shared my first half marathon experience. Though I wasn't a blogger back then, I also ran a full marathon in 2010. Though I am not an expert on running by any means, I have learned a lot about running through my own experiences and by reading a lot of books and articles. I ran track in high school and suffered from terrible shin splints. Later in high school, I cross trained for tennis by running 6-7 miles at a time, and ran without any pain. I successfully trained for both my full and half marathon without injury, and I'm a firm believer that almost anyone can successfully train for a long distance race. Below are the main tips that you should follow in order to successfully be able to run long distances without getting hurt.
A good quality pair of running shoes is crucial to being able to run without getting injured. If you're starting to run consistently, I would invest in good pair of running shoes right away. I have a hard time spending money on clothes or shoes, but running shoes are one thing I will splurge on because I know how important they are. You are not only protecting your feet with a good pair of shoes- you're protecting your knees, your hips, and your back. Buying good shoes will save you from a host of problems later in life (think knee/hip replacements or spinal fusions).
If you haven't already, I strongly encourage you to go to a running store and have them film you running. You run on a treadmill while they video just your feet, and they're able to slow the video down to see how you run (whether you land on the inside of your foot, outside, or pretty flat). Depending on how your feet land, you'll need a different type of shoe. Running shoes are not all built the same and I can tell a huge difference in a shoe that works for my type of stride versus one that doesn't.
Most (if not all) running stores do this analysis for free even if you don't land up buying a pair of shoes. Don't be intimidated by this process! I know I was nervous the first time I did it, but people at running stores are usually super friendly and want to help you get in a good pair of shoes.
I've also found that most running stores are pretty respectful of my budget when I tell them my price range. A lot of times you can get the same shoe but the previous year's model for a big discount. That being said, I would realistically expect to spend between $60-$120 on a good pair of running shoes. I usually spend around $80 and that is getting the year's previous model.
One last note- I usually try to shop at a store that has a good return policy. Usually this means a full refund within 1-2 weeks of returning your shoes, and I look for stores that are okay with me running in the shoes on my normal running surface to test them out. It's really hard for me to decide on a pair of shoes in store because I don't normally run on treadmills. Obviously, I wouldn't abuse this policy- I usually run a maximum of 5 miles in the shoes and that's usually enough for me to tell if the shoes will work for me or not. I recently returned a pair of shoes before I got my current ones because after just a couple of runs in them my shins started hurting- a sure sign that I wasn't in the right shoes.
I can't emphasize this enough- if you only get one thing out of this entire post it would be this point. A lot of people think that starting slow means going from not having run in years to running 3 miles a few times a week. This is not slow. Before I started officially training for my marathon, I completed a couch-to-5k training plan that had me work up to being able to run 3 miles. Before I started training for my half marathon, I was consistently running 1-3 miles about 3 times a week for two months.
The slower you start, the less likely you are to get injured. It can feel long at the beginning when you're barely increasing your mileage, but taking your time in the beginning will pay off later when you're able to run 10+ miles a week without getting injured. Starting too quick is a surefire way to get injured and doom your training before you even really begin.
DON'T OVER TRAIN
A lot of people think that they have to run 5 or 6 days a week to be fast. This may work for some people, but I know that for a lot of people, this much running can quickly lead to overuse injuries. I believe that my running injuries in high school were directly related to running for 2 hours 6 days a week.
Thanks to Amanda (that link goes to her AWESOME page of running resources), I learned about the Run Less Run Faster book. Back in December, I checked this book out at the library and though I didn't read every single page, I read enough to understand the premise. By having fewer but more focused runs, you'll still be able to get positive results.
This book and methodology is precisely why I chose this half marathon training plan . This plan only has you run 3 times a week and cross train 2 days a week and rest 2 days a week. This plan was perfect for me because I work three 12-hour shifts a week and there is no way that I am working out after my shifts. That leaves me four days to work out- 3 days of running and 1 day of cross training. I'll be honest- I was consistent with my running, but my cross training was doing yoga maybe once a month.
I'm a huge believer in only running 3-4 times a week (I ran 4 times a week during my marathon training). I think this frequency really lowers your chance of getting injured or even getting burnt out on running. The plan I followed for my half marathon is adaptable to whatever pace and goal you're shooting for. Do your training runs and do something different on your off days- yoga, hike, or one of my personal favorites- dance on the xbox.
Check out part 2 of how to run without getting injured.
What other tips do all you runners have for running without getting injured? What questions do you have about these tips?