Smart training and Injury Prevention
How we go fast
How can I stay healthy while training?
The biggest factors are Sleep, Nutrition, and Strength.
A lack of sleep severely increases your risk of injury. When you sleep, your body can use the fuel you’ve given it to repair the damage done by training; this very repair allows your body to adapt to the training stresses so you run faster! You should try for 7+ hours of sleep, but everybody is different! If you have trouble getting this at nighttime, naps are another great way to get extra res. Sleep is so important because as adults, we only really get our dose of growth hormone as we get our deepest rest. This hormone is related to muscle synthesis, your immune response, and your body’s management of inflammation.
Nutrition is another key factor in staving off injuries. This is an often contested topic among runners. We had a nutritionist from Boston Children’s speak to us in the fall of 2022. She went over our major macronutrient groups: carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. This is where we get energy and the building blocks for our cells. Micronutrients are also important for enzyme catalysis within our cells. Tracking these is not recommended unless noted by a doctor. These are just some things to keep in mind while hitting the dining hall or grocery store.
Carbohydrates make up 55-75% of our daily intake, especially as runners. Sugars are a great quick fuel source, as they are absorbed relatively quickly. This is why gels and other mid-run sources are often made from some sort of sugar. Fiber is important as it slows digestion, but too much can cause stomach issues (i.e. probably don’t eat a bunch right before you run) and inhibit iron absorption.
Fats are used all over the body, from lipid bilayer cellular membranes to hormones, vitamin absorption, and satiety. Fats are important! They are your fuel stores once your body runs out of carbohydrates. There are three kinds: saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated. All in all, fats are a great way to get in extra calories during hard training days and are much needed for functioning muscles and lubricated joints!
The big micronutrient sources to keep in mind are vitamin D, calcium, and iron. Vitamin D and Calcium are best absorbed together, but generally inhibit the absorption of iron. Calcium is important for bone and muscular health. Iron helps cells transport oxygen throughout the body (more oxygen= less tired muscles = faster!). It is best absorbed with vitamin C (ex. fish and lemon). Iron is especially important for female athletes due to our loss of blood each month during our periods. Be sure to chat with your doctor before supplementing!
Finally, hydration is important for many cellular functions, especially as we runners lose a lot in breathing hard and sweating during runs.
Proteins are important to help rebuild our muscles (and generally the reason behind many gym bros taking in large amounts). However, our body can only really absorb about 30 grams at one time. Proteins are made of different amino acids. We must get what are called EAAs (essential amino acids) as our body cannot synthesize them. Animal-based protein sources contain all of these, while plant-based sources are ‘incomplete’ or lack some of them. That said, with a variation of plant-based protein, and some quick research, it is relatively easy to get all of these EAAs.
Disclaimer: I am not a certified nutritionist or registered dietician. I am merely a teammate who has met with plenty of dieticians and nutritionists over the years and has referred to said presentations while writing this. You must find a way of eating that is best for you and your overall health. Please consult an RD or nutritionist if you need specific help improving your diet. Boston Children’s has some great RDs and nutritionists in their Sports Med department! We also have an on campus RD if you are struggling/ have any further questions.
Shoes can all make a massive difference in your body’s ability to respond to and recover from training. Generally, shoes should be replaced every 300-500 miles. However, this is usually not the case for speedier/ carbon plated shoes, which do not last as long. Strava has a handy feature where you can add in your running shoes and it will keep track of the mileage for you. If you don’t use Strava, I would calculate your weekly mileage for about two weeks and use the average to determine the number of weeks you could go to reach this range.
You can also gauge wear by the feel or look of the shoe. If your joints are getting extra achy after runs or you’re getting blisters/ skin burns, you may need a new pair. Another way to know is by checking the bottoms, treads, of the shoes. If they are too worn out, the shoe won’t flex correctly, and you will lack grip on the ground. Finally, you can check the midsole of the shoe, the very shock absorbers between your body and the pavement. If it is firm and no longer slightly squishy, it’s probably time to replace them. The reason it is important to switch out your shoes is due to this decrease in shock absorption. The midsole of the shoe can no longer retain as much air in pockets of its foam changing shape and pliability. All of this has an impact on your form while running. Poor form begets injury. That said, shoes can get expensive! Be sure to check out our discounts section for tips on finding cheaper shoes as well as some deals you can get.
What should my mileage be?
As a beginner, look at the number of times you are running a week as well as distance (ex. 3-4 miles) for each run. If you are currently doing 3 days, start by adding another day in. Stay at that mileage for 3 or so weeks and see how you are feeling. Then begin to add on slightly more mileage onto one or two runs per week.
As an intermediate/ regular runner, look at the 10% rule for guidance. This means no mileage increases more than 10% each week. For example, if you run a 40 mile week, then your next week should be no more than 44 miles. Continue this upward trend for three weeks and then take a lower mileage ‘down’ week to let your body heal from the running stresses. Your down week should be 15-20% less of your mileage; this does not mean cut easy runs – you need to heal so it should be a decrease in intensity / number of workouts/ length of long run as well.
As you become more advanced, think about this same rule but 5-10%. Usually people have a spot where they begin to get more tired/ injury prone. Listening to your body is incredibly important as you increase mileage but especially as you get to mileage that you’ve never ran before.
Long run mileages should also be considered when increasing total mileage. Do not increase this long run by an exorbitant amount. And for most people, the long run should be no more than 30% of their total weekly mileage.
If you are coming back from 1-2 weeks off, the 10% rule may not apply. Begin at significantly less mileage than you used to ie 20-25 for a runner of 35 miles a week and then you can pretty quickly increase your mileage within a few weeks so long as everything is feeling good.
For coming back after 3+ weeks off, it is important to follow the 10-15% rule. Runners who build incorrectly can still be injured at mileages that they used to easily run (I have done this and ended up with quite the stress reaction: don’t get cocky coming off an injury/ extended time off). Note if this time off is occurring because of an injury: talk to your doctor about mileage/ any increases – they’ll have some sort of a 10–10-10 plan especially for you stressed bone folks. Be smart – two of these injuries in a row can lead to months off. Additionally if the time off was due to a weird pain while trying to hit higher mileage that might be your body’s upper limit: respect that.
Can I always run at the same pace? Should I?
Varying paces is super important.
- It can reduce the risk of injury! Different paces put different stresses on the body, so you are less likely to obtain an overuse injury. For example, speed work causes your body myoglobin and trains your body to recruit faster twitch muscle fibers more efficiently
- It trains different systems. Aerobic and anaerobic systems are needed for hard racing of any kind. It is important to work both of these systems. Some paces work one more ie faster = anaerobic while others ie slower runs work your aerobic system.
From an improvement in racing perspective: you should keep your hard days hard and your easy days easy (1-2 MINUTES per mile slower than your supposed marathon pace). If you run your easy days too fast, your body will not recover enough to push hard in the workouts. This leads to mediocre training and you not being as speedy as you could be during that workout.
There’s a workout this week but I don’t know what my 10K/6K/8K/ half or marathon pace would be! What do I do?
Time for reps based on pace: Put in your pace, the distance of the rep and then get the time you want to try to hit. It’s probably better to start off a bit slower and then negative split/ push hard through the last rep rather than dying halfway through the workout.
Pace calculator for different distances based on previous races: