How to Run a Lot Without Getting Injured

When people find out how much I run, their first question is usually, “WHY?” I understand why they ask that — I do a run a lot for a recreational runner, and it might not make much sense to log so many miles when I’ll never be an elite.  But the answer is simple: I love it. It makes me happy. It’s a major part of who I am. I'd love to credit the source for this picture, but I have no idea where I got it. I saw it  and saved it to my phone. Oops. I’d love to credit the source for this picture, but I have no idea where I got it. I saw it quite some time ago  and saved it to my phone. Oops.

The next question people ask when they find out how much I run is, “How do you run so much without getting injured?” The answer to that one is more complicated, but there is a method to my madness.

The term “high mileage” is subjective, of course. What is high for me may not be high for you, and vice-versa. These tips, though, are applicable to most runners, whether you’re building to 30 miles or 130 miles per week.

(I probably don’t need to explain this, but I’m just an English teacher who runs a lot; I’m not a running expert. These are methods that I’ve researched and that have worked for me, but you should always take the advice of professionals over the advice of some gal on the Internet).  

mileage

1. Build slowly. I’ve been running a long time. I did not go from running 20 miles a week to running 70 miles a week in a couple of months. It takes years. The general rule of thumb is to increase mileage by no more than 10% each week. Every 3-4 weeks, plan a cutback week, where you reduce your mileage by 20-30%. That allows your body to adapt to the demands you’re placing on it. After a big training cycle, taking a few weeks or months of reduced mileage is also a good idea. Let your body recover completely before you start building again.

2. Keep easy runs easy. I was a slow learner on this one. For a long time, I was convinced that running some runs slowly would make me slow always. How wrong I was. Easy runs have specific purposes: they help you recover from hard days, and they build endurance without overtaxing your body. If you push too hard on your easy days, you negate the whole purpose of the run. Nowadays, my pace on easy runs is at least a minute slower than marathon pace, and usually slower.
UntitledThis was Tuesday’s run. I had hard workouts Monday and Wednesday, so a slow and easy pace Tuesday helped me recover from Monday and hit all my paces on Wednesday.

Don’t blow off the easy runs. Keep them easy, and you’ll be faster for it.

3. Strength train. I don’t love strength training, but it keeps me healthy. I don’t do anything fancy, especially not during peak training. A twice weekly, simple routine of various squats, lunges, deadlifts, push-ups, pull-ups, dips, etc., plus core work nearly every day, keeps my muscles strong, prevents imbalances, and helps me keep good form when I’m fatigued — all of which reduce the risk of injury and allow me to run more.

4. Foam roll. I know, it’s not fun. But that little foam beast is a miracle worker. It loosens tight spots and helps with recovery, and a few minutes of discomfort is worth it for a lot of minutes of injury-free, high mileage running. Hurts so badly. Does so much good. Hurts so badly. Does so much good.

5. Eat well, and eat enough. You don’t put dirty, sketchy gasoline in your car and expect it to run well, do you? And you don’t expect to drive 300 miles on two gallons of gas. Why expect the same out of your body? Your diet doesn’t have to be perfect, of course (because what is a “perfect” diet, anyway?), but eating nutrient-dense whole foods (and enough of them!) and limiting junk provides your body with everything it needs to support and maintain high mileage. Did I eat half of this food and a giant salad? Why yes, yes I did. Did I eat half of this food and a giant salad? Why yes, yes I did.

None of this is profoundly insightful, of course, but sometimes I think we make running more difficult than it should be. As you build your mileage, just take it slow and take care of yourself, and you’ll be just fine!

What other tips do you have for building mileage?

What’s the most weekly mileage you’ve done?

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16 thoughts on “How to Run a Lot Without Getting Injured”

  1. I read this post last night on my phone but my fat fingers make me leave too many typos, so I’ll comment now…lol. I really benefit from running my easy runs, easy. I’ve also discovered that hills and I do not get along as well as we used to. 😦 I should ‘favourite’ this post and refer to it often. 🙂

  2. These are all great tips, bot just for running but for training in general. I definitely had to learn about easy versus hard days. When I first started running and getting serious about training, I went out thinking that every run had to be record-breaking. SO WRONG! Now I embrace my recovery runs and listen to my body. For me, knowing my body and staying proactive about rest, recovery, and fueling is key to training.

  3. Very good reminders! I need to remember to take easy runs easy.I get to go try that today! The most I ever did in a week was in the 70s. When I was over training, 55-70 miles a week was what I did for several months in a row. I didn’t get injured but it was soooo dumb of me.

    1. It’s easy to let it slide, especially if you’re like me and don’t like it much. I sometimes have to bribe myself: “You can only watch this trashy television show if you also do a strength/core workout.”

  4. Great tips! My recent injury humbled me and reminded me of the importance of strength training in particular. I had completely neglected it the entire duration of training for my half marathon earlier this year and in the months afterward, and then I wondered why I got injured! Everything is connected, nothing happens in a vacuum.

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