3. Add other elements. Like mentioned above, if all you do is run, injury is destined to be in your path. There must be focused attention to flexibility and mobility work, functional strength, optimal nutrition and adequate recovery. Before you run, proper warm-up strategies should be implemented. Cutting 10 minutes off your actual run to add dynamic warm up movements to prepare the body beforehand will create a smarter training program.
More: Warm-Up Drill
4. Think long term. When an athlete approaches me about training for a specific event, I always lean towards the conservative end of training. Beginners need to understand that training for a long endurance event takes time. Too many people sign up for half marathons and beyond and only allow 10-12 weeks of training to get ready. Again, a big recipe for injury, overuse and burnout. A general guideline is:
(This all depends on the individual's level of fitness and physical capacity; this is a general guideline)
Marathon: 36-52 weeks
Half Marathon: 16-26 weeks
10K: 12-16 weeks
5K: 8-12 weeks
Speed or sprint work: 6 weeks of general preparation in the form of drills, strength work and tempo running
5. Improve your running technique and economy. Biomechanics is a critical component to running injury free. Running with perfect form still puts impact on the body so running with poor form will increase your chances of injury. All "runners", whether the goal is to run long distance or primarily run short spurts, need to implement drills into their programs. For my general fitness athletes, drills are integrated into every workout. These drills become movement based and can play a significant role in improving mobility, flexibility and coordination. "Do it everyday if it's important", says wrestling legend Dan Gable. Drills should be done consistently during the week. Every time you land a foot on the ground when you run, you put 2-5 times your bodyweight of impact each strike. If you have poor fundamentals, weak deceleration capabilities, extra bodyweight and/or poor stability, you create more pressure and pounding up the chain. When you improve mechanics, you run more efficient, with less impact and you will increase longevity in the sport.
6. Become strong. I mentioned this above but wanted this to be a point discussed in detail. Bernard Lagat, a USA elite 1500m/5k/10k runner has been quoted saying that he owes his success to the time spent in the gym. Craig Alexander, winner of the Ironman World Championships, said that he spent more time and effort in the weight room the past season. Strength work for runners will assist in injury reduction, joint integrity, proper range of motion, total body strength and stability and reducing poor movement qualities. Plain and simple, when you move better, you become more athletic and you improve as an athlete. Whether you are an elite runner or a recreational runner, it is critical to add specific strength work to your overall training program. But what you do in the gym matters. Add full body, multi-joint movement training into your weekly schedule. Functional training is training that will correspond to your goals outside the gym. Strength work should be a balanced system that will assist your needs as an athlete to develop symmetry, athleticism, power and total body awareness. So whether you are a recreational runner preparing for your first marathon or you add sprints to your training regimen, developing functional strength is mandatory to reduce injury, enhance performance and set you up for a successful overall program.