Getting injured in the early stages of training can be one of the most frustrating challenges a runner encounters. While you might assume that running ailments are more common as you build mileage, they are actually just as likely to occur at the beginning of training thanks to a handful of common training errors.
Are You Doing Too Much Too Soon?
This training error applies to both mileage and intensity. If you don't have an adequate base of fitness and you start logging significant mileage or jumping into hard workouts, you're asking for an injury. Giving your body time to adjust to the new training regimen is crucial to staying healthy.
"One of the first things I ask athletes is about their current fitness level—including body weight, strength, flexibility and endurance," says Michael Merlino, owner of In Flight Running in Houston, Texas and the host of a running and fitness podcast on iTunes. "It's important to be realistic about where you're at and where you want to go."
One way to ensure you build a solid base is to hire a coach. A good running coach will know when to push you and when to pull back on the reins. Even more importantly, they will understand your needs and goals as an individual athlete. While training plans in books and online are often well-researched and organized, they don't take into account an athlete's specific needs and current fitness level.
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If you aren't using a coach's expertise, you may want to play it safe with the 10 percent rule for increasing your mileage safely. This means that if you start with 20 miles per week, you should add no more than 10 percent the following week. The progression would look something like this:
Week 1: 20 miles
Week 2: 22 miles
Week 3: 24 to 25 miles
Week 4: 26.5 to 27.5 miles
Are You Running in a Good Pair of Shoes?
Whether you're running in the wrong shoes for your feet or just old, worn out ones, footwear can cause major problems for runners. In a sport where not much equipment is needed, it's worth it to invest in good footwear.
"When your tires get worn out on your car, you go to the tire store because it's dangerous to drive on them," explains Merlino. "People don't think that way about their shoes. While they aren't cheap, you have to ask yourself what the cost of co-payments are going to be for doctor visits."
In general, most quality running shoes will last between 300 to 500 miles. If you're doing other things in your shoes, whether it's going to the grocery store or lifting weights, you'll wear through them more quickly. Try to keep tabs on the age of your shoes and pay attention to how the cushioning and support feels. You can often sense when a shoe is reaching the end of its wearable life.
Your best bet for buying new running shoes is to visit your local running store. "I'm a big believer in specialty running stores, because I think you get service from people who know running," says Merlino. "And forget the fashion statements when you're choosing; you need to buy the most comfortable shoes you can get."