Happy 2014! Welcome to the Year of Healthy, Injury-Free Running

by Jason Fitzgerald

Happy New Year! 2014 is going to be YOURS – are you ready?

Every January I like to reflect on the annual highlights and set goals for the next 12 months. And 2013 was our best year ever.

New Year

How do I know? Well, I judge these things by the accomplishments of the runners that I coach – either directly in my 1-on-1 coaching program or through custom training plans, Run Your BQor the SR Boot Camp. Those accomplishments are significant, diverse, and breathtaking.

I’m impressed with every runner that uses SR to improve their running. From Linda who ran a PR marathon and then completed her first 6-hour ultramarathon to Matt who ran 23 minutes faster at the Marine Corps Marathon, these runners are improving  their fitness, performances, and overall enjoyment of the sport in leaps and bounds.

I actually had to start separate pages to keep track of all the feedback and results my runners experienced. Wondering how the SR Boot Camp helps runners? Check this out. Curious what people think of a custom training plan? Read this.

This type of impact means the world to me – I’m incredibly thankful to you for being part of this community, taking initiative in your training, and doing the hard work that helps you become a better runner.

Your progress and success are my only goals here and the #1 reason why I absolutely love my “job” (is this really a job?) as head coach at Strength Running.

During 2013, SR grew to a whole new level and helped a lot more runners than ever before. This little running blog ain’t so little anymore! With more than 11,000 runners on my email list (I publish even more coaching advice there – you can sign up here) SR is quickly becoming the largest single-author running blog on the web. It’s crazy for me to even type that and I have you to thank!

More importantly, members of the SR community are seeing strong results: PR’s, consistency, and fewer running injuries. Almost every day I hear from someone who ran their goal race and absolutely crushed it. You can even read some in-depth success stories here.

So to you: congratulations and job well done!

2014: The Year of Injury Free Running

Each year I announce a theme that helps guide the direction of SR and provides better resources for you. In the past, we’ve seen the Year of the PR, of Stretch Goals, and Consistency.

They’re all related of course: stretch goals help you run more consistently which can lead to a new personal best.

Today I’m excited to announce 2014’s official theme: Injury Free Running!

Training without running injuries is like capturing a mythical unicorn: it evades so many of us and remains just outside our grasp. It promises to deliver powerful results – and the consistency that comes with healthy running is one of the best ways to improve.

Is your big goal for 2014 to prevent more running injuries? Even if it’s something like finish your first marathon or half marathon, injury prevention is going to be crucial to you accomplishing your goal this year.

That’s what I want to help you with in 2014. To finally run healthy and prevent the injuries that are stopping you from achieving your race goals.

I want you to feel like Sarah. Or Deb. Or these runners:

“I had some “nagging” plantar fasciitis when I started five weeks ago, but within 7-10 days of starting the plan, those symptoms are GONE permanently! That is HUGE! I truly love being able to run 6 days a week without injury; it’s just awesome.” – Dana

“It is such a relief to be able to train normally again since being injured. A big thank you again for that!” – Allison

“I’m currently ahead of schedule and completed my first 20 miler last night, injury-free! The [injury prevention work] has done miracles.” – Christina

What would it mean to you to run healthy this year? Just think about how that would make you feel – that feeling is what I want you to feel every day.

The truth is, if you can stay healthy, you can run more. You can run faster. You can run easier. 

And more importantly, you’ll have more fun! No more struggling with regret from losing weeks (or months) of hard work. Or feeling frustrated because you’re wasting time when all you want to do is go running.

Imagine how it would feel if you never had to get back into running after a big chunk of time off. Remember how discouraging and humbling that felt when a short, easy run was so difficult? It’s the worst feeling.

Instead, I want you to feel empowered by being able to run when you want and how far you want. You’ll be able to run the races you’re looking forward to – with no setbacks.

It’s time to enjoy the pure pleasure of running – something I think is essential to our health and well-being.

How Can Fewer Running Injuries Help You?

healthy runners

I call consistency the “secret sauce” of good training: it helps you string together months and years of running that makes you faster, stronger, and able to accomplish goals that you previously thought were impossible.

But you can’t be consistent if you’re constantly struggling with running injuries. I know – I used to deal with major setbacks every year. My training in college was a roller coaster of Achilles tendinopathy, IT band syndrome, plantar fasciitis, and a host of other problems.

It got so frustrating that I even considered quitting the track team. This cycle of injuries continued after college and peaked in a six month layoff from running when I had a severe case of ITBS that I simply couldn’t heal.

Was I destined to be injured all the time? Was I really that unfortunate?

I refused to believe that and give up on what I loved. That injury forced me to reevaluate my training and prevention efforts. Obviously, what I was doing wasn’t working. And I was determined to make a change so that I could get back to doing what I love: running!

So I overhauled my training program and devoured as many running books as I could read. After upgrading my training, launching SR, and becoming a USA Track & Field certified coach I haven’t had a single major injury.

Since early 2009, I’ve been running healthy without injury, racking annual mileage personal bests in 2010, 2012, and 2013 (my new PR is 3,269 miles). I also improved my marathon best to 2:39:32 and won a Warrior Dash, a host of local races, and a marathon.

Needless to say, I’m a whole different runner. And the components of injury free running that I’ve learned are why my coaching advice has been in Runner’s World, Competitor, Health, and the Huffington Post.

But the best part of being able to train without any injuries is the satisfaction that comes with being healthy – my goal for you in 2014.

What Causes Running Injuries?

That’s the million dollar question! Running injuries are caused by a lot of issues: running too much before you’re ready for it, going too fast, having really poor running form, or doing something stupid like running five races in seven weeks (with four being ultramarathons – including a 100 miler!).

We’re incredibly good at pushing ourselves beyond what we’re capable of doing. That’s what makes progress possible but it also puts us at risk. In our quest for faster race times or longer distances, sometimes we write checks our body can’t cash.

That’s when injuries happen. And it’s why the cause of most running injuries is this:

Running too much, too fast, too soon compounds imbalances and weaknesses, causing overuse injuries.

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All of us have some weaknesses or imbalances from a lifetime of sitting down too much, high-heeled shoes, poor running form, old injuries, or our individual movement patterns.

And that’s ok! Even the fastest runners have asymmetrical bodies (after some testing, pro Dathan Ritzenhein was found to strike the ground harder with one foot compared to the other).

What’s really important is how you deal with your “weak links.” Most injury prevention advice has to do with strength exercises that help you get stronger and address those imbalances. That’s great – but remember that injuries are caused by the “3 Too’s” as well.

To really prevent running injuries, you have to go beyond a simple strength program and also address your training. Are you running the right paces during each run? Is your mileage and overall workload appropriate? Are you resting enough and incorporating sufficient variety?

When I recorded a video recently I mentioned three pieces of smart training: “sandwiching,” proper pacing, and patience. When implemented correctly, just these three principles can help you dramatically cut your injury risk.

And soon we’re going to dive deeper into injury prevention with even more resources for you.

Join me this month?

This January, I’m dedicating the entire blog to injury prevention. Every week, I’ll share specific action steps, resources, and case studies that will help you prevent more running injuries.

Are you interested in learning more about this topic? If so, I invite you to join me as we explore how to really stay healthy.

There’s so much coaching material that I don’t have time to post all of it on the blog. Instead, I only share it with those who have expressed interest on my injury prevention email list.

To get all the presentations and extra resources, just sign up here.

I’m also excited to announce the release of Injury Prevention for Runners - the most comprehensive program available for injury prevention, treatment, and helping you finally stay healthy.

You might remember that I’m so fanatical about running injuries I created an entire coaching program last fall to help runners who struggle with getting hurt. For six weeks, a special group of only 15 runners got the best education possible about injury prevention.

Here’s what Julie and Brendan thought of the program:

“This coaching program really taught me that running alone was not the key to being a good runner. Nor will it keep you injury free. I know that there is more to running and staying fit….I feel like I have the secret now!!”

“This program cuts through a lot of the noise out there on how to train while preventing injury. It’s allowed me to use my time wisely to not only run, but also build strength. Now I’m a lot more confident with my training and more excited to get out there and do work.”

You’ll be able to get access to the same coaching lessons, injury treatment protocols, interviews with running experts, and a library of training plans designed for injury prevention.

But you’ll get even more material on how to stay healthy than on the blog on my prevention email list. You can hop on that list here if this is something that’s getting you amped up!

So get excited for 2014 – let’s make it your best ever!

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