Healthy Running = Happy Running (you guys are so inspiring!)

by Jason Fitzgerald

2014 is the Year of Injury Free Running. And this month, I’m focusing entirely on injury prevention, publishing more than ever on the blog and my email list.

Earlier this week I showed you why you’re injured, with specific examples of downright dangerous prevention advice. When I read suggestions on the web to Run less! Walk more! Feel like you’re dying! I consider permanently cancelling my internet subscription and living off the grid.

But then you turn it all around for me.

I wanted to know what healthy running meant to you. So I set up a survey, asking:

What’s your favorite aspect of being healthy? How does it make you feel to run without injuries?

Hundreds of you replied, sharing your deepest thoughts on what it means to run healthy, without pain, and free of injuries.

The response was staggering and your feedback is honestly very emotional for me. I remember back to when I was chronically injured and the feeling of desperation I constantly felt.

I kept asking myself, how long am I going to feel helpless? Does anyone else understand how frustrated I am? Why the hell was I so stubborn?

So, I understand your pain. I know what it feels like to constantly deal with a “foot thing” or a “calf thing” or a “hip thing.”

More importantly, I understand your joy. 

Running gives us an unparalleled freedom to experience the world – it makes everything else feel easy. Whether that’s picking up your kids or just standing up from a chair, running helps us feel grateful for a healthy body.

Plus it’s just so much damn fun!

There’s Nothing Like Healthy Running!

Today I want to share the most uplifting comments I received about what it means to run healthy. Thank you for making my day!

Healthy Running

Share the happy, click to share this on Twitter!

Here are even more responses that make me smile (and I hope you too!):

“My favorite aspect of being healthy is being able to say YES when my friends ask me to do something active with them, like their first 5k, a hiking trip, rock climbing, mud runs, pub runs or even just a long walk.”

“To run without injury is very freeing. It decreases the dread of milage and increases the pleasure of running.
It’s a blessing to feel the body embracing life with great health.”

“It feels good to move confidently, knowing I’m keeping my body strong and healthy.”

“Being able to train without any injuries is a testament of dedication, preparation, and fitness at any particular level you’re at. It’s a damn good feeling when you can click on all three gears.”

The “Sneaky” Reason Why Injury Prevention is so Damn Important

Staying healthy is great for the emotional aspects of running. Healthy running makes us happier, we’re more empowered to tackle our big goals, and life just seems more fulfilling.

But there’s another reason why injury prevention is one of your best tools for running faster: it makes you more consistent.

Not all of us can run 10 miles every day (or even 6 miles a day). But what if you took the standard 25 miles a week you might run – and ran that mileage for an entire month? Or maybe six months?

How much more accomplished would you be as a runner if you could run 25 miles a week…for a whole year?

When you can’t run higher mileage, faster workouts, or longer runs, consistency is what makes new personal bests possible.

In a time when many runners are always looking for more! more! more! it may be just as effective to do the same mileage over a longer period of time.

Here’s an example of my annual mileage personal bests from the last few years:

Annual Mileage Totals

2010 was a significant new personal best for me – by 193 miles. I even managed to squeak in a PR in 2012 by a whopping mile! And last year – 2013 – was a huge PR!

But here’s the interesting thing: none of those years included a weekly mileage PR. The reason why I ran more is because I was simply more consistent with no major injuries. I haven’t had a significant injury since my IT Band injury in 2009.

Without any injuries, you don’t have to take valuable time off to recover and help yourself heal.

I use this principle religiously with the runners I coach. Once we get to a “good” mileage level, which is subjective and based on a wide variety of things, they stay there. A common mistake is to always increase your mileage or constantly search for a weekly mileage record.

Long-term thinking makes injury prevention easier since you’re not making big jumps in mileage.

Mileage

Weekly mileage is short-sighted when compared to monthly mileage. And monthly mileage is short-sighted compared with annual mileage.

When are you most likely to get hurt?

Monday I announced a new presentation on the times during your training when you’re most likely to get hurt.

It’s now available – if you’re on the injury prevention email list, you received it yesterday. If not, sign up here and I’ll send it to you.

Now, I want you to think about your running over the last six months:

  1. Were you “greedy” with mileage and added too much, too soon?
  2. How can you apply these principles of consistency and long-term thinking to stay healthy?
  3. Do you have any questions for me?

Leave your response below and I’ll do my best to reply to each comment.

I hope you’re having fun with this injury prevention material and more importantly, learning from it and applying it to your own training!

To get the latest injury prevention presentation, sign up here and it’ll be in your inbox within an hour.

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{ 21 comments }

David Stall

I am firmly in the “novice runner” category, averaging 20-25 miles a week. I found your site when researching IT band injuries which have been a fairly constant issue for me (getting better following your rehab routine .. thanks!). I guess my question for you would be: How do you find out what that “good” mileage level is for an individual runner? As a novice runner I think the hardest thing to figure out is how much I should be running, what types of running I should be doing and how to tie all of those things into a safe and effective weekly and/or monthly routine.

Jason Fitzgerald

Hi David, this is what you’re looking for: http://strengthrunning.com/2013/02/the-goldilocks-principle/

Dan Roddy

I run year around but I vary my running from road to trail to treadmill. Following a long run on pavement I will run the treadmill until recovery is complete. I believe recovery is necessary after every run and diet play a key roll in this. For most runs of 5 to 10K, recovery is complete overnight. For a half marathon I may need 4 – 5 days rest. At age 59, this strategy has worked well for me and has made me very competitive in my age group and injury free for 3.5 years of running so far.

My secret for this 59 year old body:
Strong core + minimal but consistent mileage = successful racing

Erin

Jason,
I NEEDED this article today. It is as if you are talking to me. After battling through over 20 weeks of “shin stuff” and having doctors tell me that everything is fine and I should just run anyway, I finally saw an orthopedist yesterday that “gets it”. All of his findings are consistent with previous docs, PTs, and Chiros, but what was different was the fact that he gave me a PLAN. A plan to strengthen first, then run. When he told me not to run “miles” until February 1, I was ok. It was when he told me that I had to keep my weekly mileage in February to 12 miles (A WEEK!!) that the tears came. I suddenly saw my 2014 goal of 1000 miles disappear. After some thinking and reflecting (on both the doc’s detailed plan and the reading I have done on your website), I began to realize that the miles saved now will be returned and multiplied, if I just follow the plan–get healthy, get stronger, maybe get a little faster, and move forward in a smart way. Sure, I could fail to listen, pound out 100 miles a month to reach my goal. . . and get sidelined again, falling short, and forgetting the big picture. Thank you for just solidifying those thoughts for me and reminding me to trust the process. . .

Jason Fitzgerald

You’re welcome Erin, glad this helped :)

With 1k miles/year, you only need 20/week to get there. So 12/week for one month isn’t that much of a setback. Just think where you’ll be over the summer and fall!

Amanda

1. No definitely not. I was cautious and careful. Maybe too much at times.
2. The way I look at it is instead of cutting the prevention work short if time’s tight, better to cut a bit off the mileage. It’s hard to do 2 or 3 miles instead of my regular base run (4), but I feel better when incorporating the strength/dynamic work, which means….I’ll feel better for the next run and be able to execute that.
3. Related to beginners/mileage, better to have extra days off and add mileage to current runs or add runs during the week to increase mileage? Maybe you can’t generalize that answer…

Jason Fitzgerald

That’s a bit of a tough one, but I’d say it’s easier to add more days of running. While it certainly doesn’t “make your easy days easier and hard days harder” it’s an easier way to run mileage.

Here’s an example: if you want to run 20 miles per week, it will be difficult to only run twice per week but have to run 10 miles per run. If you run 4 days per week, but only 5 miles per run, that is a lot easier on your body. Plus, more days of running confer a lot of efficiency benefits.

Amanda

Allright, I’m going to work on adding an extra day-5 days seems more than manageable now that I’ve been running 4x consistently. Thanks for your response.

Based on your thoughts that it doesn’t make the easier days easier, I should expect to feel a little more fatigue while I get used to it, I take it?

Jason Fitzgerald

Right – it’s more work, so more fatigue is to be expected. Just keep the effort relatively easy at first!

Bruce

I am coming back from an injury and was wondering when increasing mileage, whether to run 5 shorter runs per week or 3 longer runs? Which is easier on your legs? When should I go from 3 days per week to 4, then to 5? I had to basically take 3 months off and am starting from scratch. Weekly mileage totals have been/will be: 6,6,7,8,10,10,7,10,12,12,10,15,15,15…

My pre-injury avg was 30-35mpw.

Jason Fitzgerald

I touched on this in my reply to Amanda. Generally it’s easier to run more days per week but keep the daily mileage lower. Splitting it up like that helps you spread the work out. You can add another day of running after you’re comfortable with what you’re doing. But keep that extra day very short and easy at first.

Amy

I just finished 6 months of cancer treatments – chemo, radiation, the works. I’ve got the all clear to get back to my “normal” life, and my doctors are thrilled that I’m running again. (My oncologist is a marathoner too and “gets” me.) I’m signed up for a bucket list marathon that allows me only 9 weeks of training. I’m prepared to abandon all time goals and just want to finish. This seems reckless, but the risk of injury now is less serious to me than the risk of never running this race in the future if my cancer comes back. My furthest distance post treatment is 10 miles, and I’ve got 13 on deck this weekend. Any advice to reduce my injury risk, besides reminding me how foolish it is to race without proper training?

Jason Fitzgerald

Hi Amy – first, congratulations on recovering from your treatments and welcome back to running! It’s inspirational for me that one of your big goals is a marathon and something you want to do right now. The best thing you can do is plenty of strength work to help build your “structural” or orthopedic system (muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments). This will help you handle more running, especially as you’re building more mileage for your marathon. Good luck and let us know how it goes!

Jamie

First of all, I am in love with this page. I found it about a month ago and cannot get enough of it. Now, my question…I have run 9 marathons and just BQ-ed (finally!) with a 3:32 in October. I’ve run 35-50 miles throughout my 9 consecutive training cycles with my previous coach and 5 days a week, but recently went “rogue.” I am giving Hansons Marathon method a go for my next marathon on May 4th and am a little bit nervous about the mileage increase and running 6 days a week. What I am really questioning though is how much strength training I should be doing with the increased mileage. I have never consistently strength trained while in a marathon training cycle, but after my October marathon I started to due to some lingering ITB issues and would like to keep it up, but it is already seeming like a lot (and I’m only on week 2 of Hansons! yikes!).

Jason Fitzgerald

Thanks Jamie! :) I don’t think you need a lot of strength training. Try cycling through the Standard Core, ITB Rehab, (both on SR) and Myrtl Routines (on YouTube) after your runs.

Sam

Hi Jason

I have a problem when I run slowly regarding pain in my high arches. I mainly concentrate on shorter distances and speedwork and only last year I managed to get quick enough to do 10k (45mins) without causing injury.

What I find is that when I running longer distances (8 miles and up) the tissue in my arches become slightly inflamed and painful. It was an issue I had previously for shorter distances but when I did speed work and got my PR down I managed to get around it.

I do some strength work including Chin Ups, Lunges and Press Ups 3 times a week.

Is there something particular I can strengthen to help alleviate stress for high arched slow runners?

Loving the site and keep up the good work

Sam

Jason Fitzgerald

Hi Sam – I’m wondering if the problem isn’t the longer distances but something about your form or strength. So I’d look into correcting your running form and doing more strength work that’s specific to runners. Here are two resources:

http://strengthrunning.com/2013/10/proper-running-form/
http://strengthrunning.com/2012/12/how-to-schedule-strength-workouts/

Self-massage on the arch/lower leg and ice can also be helpful in managing pain. Good luck!

Josh

Hey Jason,
I am coming back from a bad case of plantar fasciitis I got last year while training for my first full marathon. It pretty much stopped me from running after the marathon in May. It finally felt back to 100% and I am just starting up training again for my second full marathon, but only a week into training and I can feel the pain in my foot again. I feel really depressed about possibly having to stop training again so early in the season. Last year I lost seven months to the injury and don’t know what to do….less miles, more rest, etc….?

Jason Fitzgerald

Stay tuned Josh, I have this covered 100% in Injury Prevention for Runners – available next week.

Josh

Thanks!! I will stay tuned and eagerly wait for next week’s info. Keep up the good work helping us runners stay healthy, injury free, and out doing what we love!

Kathryn

Yes, healthy running means happy running. You have to enjoy what you are doing because it greatly affects your body and mind. Running is very important because it keeps us fit and strong as well as improve our cardiovascular health.

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