10 Tips to Extend Your Running Life

Action Plan

True, it's not easy to escape cambered asphalt. And safety concerns demand that you run on the left side of the road. So now you've already got two strikes against you. To avoid strike three, remember that road camber can cause problems. If you're increasing your mileage, feel an injury coming on, or are returning from injury, try to do some of your training runs on a level surface like a bike path or dirt trail. The local track also provides a firm, essentially flat surface that's great for slow-paced running. (When you do faster interval training on a track, you put unequal torque on your feet and legs due to the need to keep turning left, so be careful if you are injury prone.) Also consider the treadmill. It's hard to imagine a better surface for balanced running. At the very least, a treadmill provides a great surface for beginning runners, runners who are recovering from an injury, and perhaps even marathoners aiming to increase mileage without increasing their injury risk.

Related: 7 Secrets of Avoiding Injury 

7. Don't Race or Do Speedwork Too Often

Researchers have found a correlation between injuries and frequent race efforts. This connection might extend to speedwork since intervals also require a near-maximal effort. So if you train fast once or twice a week and then race on the weekend, that's a lot of hard efforts without sufficient rest, particularly if you follow this pattern week after week. Some experts are cautious about recommending regular speed training for certain runners, especially those who get hurt easily. It's fine for those chasing podium placements or age-group awards. But for mid-and back-of-the-packers? "You might get five percent faster, but your injury risk could climb by 25 percent," Verran says. "That's a bad risk-benefit ratio. I think most runners can hit their goals without going harder than tempo pace." 

Action Plan 

Recognize that races take a heavy toll, so give yourself plenty of recovery time (one day for each mile raced). If you are trying to quicken your pace for a specific goal, add a weekly speedwork session to your training plan, but be judicious about it. Even Olympic gold medalists only do five to 10 percent of their training at 5K race pace and faster. If you're coming back from an injury or have chronic issues you're fearful of aggravating, consider Verran's advice. Do your faster workouts at tempo pace (5K pace plus 25 to 35 seconds per mile). 

8. Stretch the Back of Your Legs

Few running practices are as hallowed as stretching. And none have been debated as much in recent years. Studies have failed to reliably show that the addition of stretching to a warmup before activity reduces overuse injuries. "The jury's been out on stretching for about a decade," says Michael Ryan, Ph.D., a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "And as far as I can tell, it hasn't come in yet." Yet few experts in the field are ready to abandon stretching. The reasoning: Runners are tight in predictable areas, they get injured in and around these areas, and therefore they should increase flexibility in these areas. The muscle groups at the back of the legs--the hamstrings and calf muscles--stand atop most lists of "best muscles for runners to stretch." Hamstring and hip-flexor flexibility seems to improve knee function (several reports link poor hamstring and hip-flexor flexibility with "larger knee joint loads") and calf flexibility may keep the Achilles tendon and plantar fascia healthy. 

Related: How to Stretch and Strengthen Your Hamstrings 


Little evidence indicates that stretching prevents overuse injuries. That said, knee and Achilles problems are among runners' most frequent complaints, and so experts recommend increasing the range of motion of muscles that can strain these areas if there is underlying tightness. Just don't do static stretches (holding an elongated muscle in a fixed position for 30 seconds or longer) before running. However, dynamic stretching can be done as a safe, effective prerun warmup. 

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