RW's 60-Second Guides: Avoiding Injury

If impatience is your middle name, you need our 60-second guides. Shallow but helpful, with five articles to print and read...

Posted: 15 September 2005

Most injury is avoidable: the first rule is not to kid yourself that it's outside your control.

Beginners need to take double care, because their muscles and tendons may need many months to adapt to the forces and range of movement of running. The first rule is to ease slowly into any run. Deliberately hold back for anything from 5-20 minutes; doubly so before speedwork. Stop trying to push, and your body will naturally lengthen its stride and become quicker during the course of your run.

Beginners and regular runners all fall foul of the most common cause of injury: progressing too fast, too soon. Increase mileage or speed, but not both. A newcomer's biggest measure of success at six months would be to have built up to three or four consistent runs a week with no injury. The same goes for marathon runners or anyone bouncing back from a layoff: in a fit of enthusiasm, how many of us try to add 50 per cent to our normal mileage and return to speedwork all in the same week, only to plummet back into injury. Don't add more than two or three miles a week (or 10 per cent, whichever is greater).

The surface you run on makes a huge difference to the impact your body absorbs. Try to do at least half your running on grass or off-road trails. Also, get your shoes fitted by a specialist. You need the right balance of cushioning and stability for your running style. Try new shoes at the first sign of an unexplained niggle: if it goes away, ditch the old ones. Worn-out cushioning and stability is not always visible; the rest of the shoe may be in very good condition (500 miles is an average lifespan; it could be 200-800 miles depending on the shoe and your body).

Consistent running is better for your body than training in fits and starts, but for beginners that means running no more than every other day. Experienced runners get to know their bodies' limits, but for them a useful rule of thumb is to take at least one rest day per week, one easy week per month, and one easy month per year.

All-round strength, especially core stability, is valuable. Most runners only strengthen a non-running muscle if their physio tells them to, post-injury. However, the next injury could come from somewhere else. Doing a weekly whole-body exercise such as rowing, active yoga, swimming or a well-balanced gym routine helps to future-proof your body against the imbalances that can cause strains and over-use injuries. Don't underestimate how much your hips and upper body contribute to a stable, smooth running style.

And stretching? Research is still divided. It increases injury risk before a run (ie, don't stretch cold muscles); it may help after a warm-up before speedwork (though loping practice strides are also important here), and after a run. Two rules: don't bounce as you stretch, and hold stretches for at least 10-12 seconds.

Finally, don't end a run with a sprint finish to your front door. After any brisk running, jog gently five or 10 minutes to let your muscles ease out.

Still pushed for time? Five key articles to print

(RW+ indicates magazine subscriber only)
  • Choose the right shoe More
  • Choose a forgiving surface More
  • Warm up, cool down, stretch intelligently More
  • Fix your core stability More RW+
  • Know when to run through pain and when to stop More
Or see all of our injury articles.

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Injury-proof your body: calves and shins (Preview)
Next article
Curls and superheroes: back-strength exercises


Discuss this article

... and most importantly, what has worked for you? (I would have included cold baths and self-massage, for example, but you can only fit so much into a 60-second guide)


ps: thank you all for your additions to our 60-Second Beginners' Guide, which has turned into a popular read
Posted: 16/09/2005 at 11:08

Don't get obsessed with increasing your speed in training. Do the miles in training, do the speed in races.
Posted: 16/09/2005 at 11:15

Spend the money and get properly-fitted running shoes.
Posted: 16/09/2005 at 11:16

Think a key point missed is to understand not to run "through" pain. or at least to understand what is tired, sore muscles and what is the start of an injury.

How many people who have suffered shin splints tried to keep running when they first got them for instance...nearly all of them. Result, another 3 weeks recovery rather than a couple of days rest.
Posted: 16/09/2005 at 11:17

Don't build-up the mileage too quickly...else bring on the shin splints.
Posted: 16/09/2005 at 11:17

Vaseline is your friend.
Posted: 16/09/2005 at 11:22

Push yourself a little but listen to your body.
Posted: 16/09/2005 at 11:26

Immodium can be your friend too. ( MMmm take note)
Posted: 16/09/2005 at 11:27

Warm up before you stretch. Stretching, or rather, attempting to stretch cold muscles may result in lots and lots of pain.

Also make sure you're stretching properly. Seek advice from others who may know if you're not sure (eg. when stretching calves, make sure the front knee doesn't go over your toe)
Posted: 16/09/2005 at 11:28

Oh! and learn when a niggle might not be a niggle anymore!

(jeez! Three sensible running related posts that may ACTUALLY help someone!)
Posted: 16/09/2005 at 11:42

Funny, I wasn't reading "Vaseline is your friend" as running related, but I see the connection now.
Posted: 16/09/2005 at 11:43

I've lost count of thge number of times I've said this


Do not go running if you are feeling ill - even if its "just a cold".

All that above the neck / below the neck stuff - its all bollox.

Just dont....

Posted: 16/09/2005 at 12:04

I agree FR. I ran a 1/2M with an "above the neck".

I had a PW and did not recover for three weeks.
Posted: 16/09/2005 at 12:14

Increase the miles per week slowly. Two steps forward, one step back. Don't get carried away. When you can 5 miles without stopping - you've cracked it.
Posted: 16/09/2005 at 13:09

get yer arse out of the door for a run even if you don't want to go - you'll feel better for doing it

[fb puts feet up and pops another Stella open.......aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh........]
Posted: 16/09/2005 at 13:20

Don't run on your heels!
Posted: 16/09/2005 at 13:21

In training:

Whatever you do, do it gradually and progressively - your fitness will not improve instantly but it WILL improve and after a few weeks you will start to notice a real difference.

Start slow - warm up, build up - finish strong.

Finish each run feeling as if you could still do more.

Listen to your body - in time you will learn how - pay early attention to any aches or pains.

After each run rest, recover, replenish and rehydrate.

Keep at it - don't let any setbacks get you down.
Posted: 16/09/2005 at 13:24

if you can run on varying terrains like grass and trails, kinder on your legs.

never run if you have a sore throat, very bad cold and so on.

treat yourself to a massage every so often.
Posted: 16/09/2005 at 13:31

Don't avoid hills, the sooner your start to tackle them, the easier all your running becomes. Don't forget to mutter the mantra 'Hills are friends, hils are friends, hills are friends...'
Posted: 16/09/2005 at 13:36

Don't run if it hurts.

See an expert if it does.

Spend a year running slowly before starting to run fast.
Posted: 16/09/2005 at 13:55

And look out for m

Posted: 16/09/2005 at 13:55

Don't buy "good" running shoes, buy ones that are right for your gait. THIS APPLIES EVEN IF YOU ARE A BEGINNER. The number of times beginners have told me "I don't want fancy shoes, I'm only a beginner..."
Posted: 16/09/2005 at 13:57


Don't start!

seriously though, take it easy on downhills at first, get proper shoes, eat as soon as you get back from a run, if it hurts so much you need ibuprofen to run on it then you shouldn't be running, & remember to have a long-term goal of being able to run in 10 years, which is more important than whatever your current race is.

Oh, and never talk to ultrarunners, fell runners, or triathletes.
Posted: 16/09/2005 at 14:01


Look out for poo's you have done? >=-o
Posted: 16/09/2005 at 14:19

If you can run 1/4 mile in 60 seconds then you will avoid injury if a bunch of chavs shout abuse at you and you tell them to F**K OFF!
Posted: 16/09/2005 at 14:23

Unless your GP has an specific interest in sports injuries you are better off going to see a physio to get treatment and advise if you need it.
Posted: 16/09/2005 at 14:50

Fell Running & Mineshafts

Don't run into lamp-posts, cows, marshals in fluro jackets, people, or trees (or anything else).
Posted: 16/09/2005 at 15:13

Keeping atraining log is a useful way to track your mileage and type of run. You can build up gradually and vary your training properly. Try:
Posted: 16/09/2005 at 15:14

Don't spend ££££s on expensive running shoes. Learn how to run properly in racing flats.

Don't try and follow the schedules in popular running magazines advocating speedwork for 4 hour marathons. You'll get injured with a low aerobic base. Run lots of easy / steady miles instead.

Run every day if you can. It keeps the legs loose.
Posted: 16/09/2005 at 15:17

BR Everyone without exception that I know who has done speedwork has got injured running. In five years of running with no speedwork I have never got injured running - mind you I am bloody slow!
Posted: 16/09/2005 at 15:26

i)Always warm up thoroughly.
ii)Never train at a level way beyond your capability.
iii)Always cool down.
iv)Stretch daily
Posted: 16/09/2005 at 19:05

I agree with Katie.
Posted: 16/09/2005 at 21:27

buy decent running shoes

then leave them in the cupboard and watch tele instead

Posted: 16/09/2005 at 22:15

Don't wait to get new shoes until they're completely wrecked and worn off to one side on the soles!
Posted: 16/09/2005 at 22:21

lol duckgirl - some sensible stuff there, especially running on ibuprofen, How many runners are actually brave enough to admit to doing that on-line here I wonder! I know I have and it really is NOT the answer!

And as for talking to fellruners! Yup totally agree and can talk from experience as did Saunders Mountain Marathon which was 2 day event so had to carry all of my gear on my back and camp overnight with other runners. Never have met more completely nuts peeps as fell runners (best pal is one). Big respect also though as REAL tough cookies!!! They look at HUGE blisters on their feet which are totally shredded like they are a little pimple then shrug and run like the wind over mountains, through bogs, in the mist, down scurry like mountain goats!!
Posted: 16/09/2005 at 23:16

Read lots before you start, like the RW Beginners Guide to Running
Keep relaxed and flexible in your training (ie don't get so focussed that you run thru injury)
Stretch like crazy after every run, even little ones
Buy decent shoes before you start - not after you've done the 8 week programme thinking you may not like it!
Use the Forum
Posted: 16/09/2005 at 23:19

Oh, and stock up on Compeed, Deepheat, ice gels, and bottles of wine (as a reward for being so good and following all the advice)
Posted: 16/09/2005 at 23:21

Listen to your body
Posted: 16/09/2005 at 23:23

and that doesn't mean buy pizza every time it asks.
Posted: 16/09/2005 at 23:24

Having read page one I can see a two tips that work well together (so I am told).

"Self-massage" and "vaseline is your friend"
Posted: 16/09/2005 at 23:26

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