Running injuries don’t come easy to some people. I know runners who haven’t been hurt in years despite marathon training, 100+ mile weeks, and really hard workouts. There are other runners who manage to train for 5k’s and marathons with no aches and pains whatsoever.
This tutorial is for the 25-50% of the running population who won’t get hurt this year. Here is your definitive guide to getting a running injury.
Warming Up is for Overachievers
Warming up is overrated! If you’re serious about getting a running injury, skip it altogether and head out for your run right after watching a lot of TV or sitting at the office for 8-9 hours. With tight, cold muscles you’ll be ready for an injury as you start your run.
Another strategy is to wake up in the morning, change into your running gear, and immediately head out the door for your workout. Don’t worry that your body is transitioning from a total state of rest to a period of hard work. Don’t do the standard warm-up; raising your heart rate is overrated and could help your workout. A warm-up ertainly won’t help you get hurt.
Skip the Strength Exercises
Being a good distance runner (or even a mediocre one) means that you have to consistently train. So if you want that, you shouldn’t do any strength exercises that will help you run strong and avoid injury. Weight exercises and other strength work can help you fight imbalances, improve your running mechanics, and even generate more power with every stride.
Sounds like a lot of work to me.
So let’s skip the strength work. Don’t learn about the best strength workouts for runners. Finish your run and shuffle immediately to your couch to watch the latest episode of House. Running injury-free is for those “real” runners anyways.
Run Longer Than Your Body Can Handle
If you want to be a good distance runner, then you need to run a lot. Every runner knows this – so start banging out 20 milers on the weekend, never take a day off, and increase your weekly mileage by at least 30%.
You want to be fast, don’t you?
Look, running isn’t easy. So put in the hard work, log the miles, and you’ll see results. Don’t worry that you’re increasing your weekly mileage by 150% – your body will adapt (or you’ll get hurt – but gambling is fun, isn’t it?).
You Can Sleep When You’re Dead
When you sleep, your body recovers from running and you absorb your training. What better way to get hurt than to sleep less? Even though Ryan Hall calls his naps “business meetings,” I think you should skip as much sleep as possible, recover less, and still maintain your running volume.
Running on little sleep works for Dean Karnazes, who notes in his book Ultramarathon Man that he only sleeps for 4 hours per night and never gets hurt. But Dean has nearly perfect biomechanics so this outlier doesn’t prove the rule: sleep less, drastically increase your risk of getting a running injury.
Run Faster Than You Should
Injuries happen when you do more than you should – but that’s not limited to just the number of miles that you run. Aim to run close to your tempo pace for most of your runs and you’re sure to blow out your achilles or develop a lovely case of tendonitis.
Running your miles faster than you should ensures your body won’t be able to recover from your runs. If your aerobic system is stronger than your legs, this will be easy. Remember: weak infrastructure + high endurance = injuries.
Bonus lesson: Do all of your hard running on roads. The Kenyans say that, “hard roads kill fresh legs” so get out there and pound the pavement.
Marathons are Easy!
If you’re a beginner runner, you should sign up for a marathon soon. It’s only 26.2 miles, it can’t be that hard right? Look, I’ll level with you: marathons are really hard and it takes at least a full year of running before you can successfully train and run a marathon.
In fact, less-fit runners who attempt marathons even damage their hearts for months after the event. The damage is reversible, of course, but it’s still there. Most noticeable will be the running injuries you suffer when you jump into a marathon too soon: strained muscles, a stress fracture (or two!), and maybe even runner’s knee. Sounds exciting.
Race Every Weekend
Racing is fun and there’s probably a race near you every weekend! Giving a 100% effort is hard on your body, so if you’re looking to get injured you should jump into as many races as possible. Recovery be damned!
Plus, when you race so frequently you won’t be able to train as effectively since you’ll always be in recover/taper mode. There are a few runners who can run a lot of races and stay healthy, but for the majority of people (myself included) it’s a great strategy for injury.
Play Lots of Other Sports
If you want to be a good runner, then you’re going to need proper recovery from your daily workouts. But what happens when your friends want to go on that 10 mile hike or play a game of pick-up basketball? If you’re tired from a workout and want to get hurt, then you should jump right in!
Sports like soccer and basketball are very stop-and-go with a lot of lateral movement. This is exactly what you should be looking for if you want to get hurt. Since your legs are tired from running, jump into a sport where you continually sprint, stop, and sprint again. There’s no better recipe for a muscle strain.
Hit the Booze. Hard
I love to party with my friends. Who doesn’t? And this is great for runners who want to get hurt, because alcohol severely disrupts sleep and the body’s ability to recover. After a night of pounding beers with your friends, you’re going to pass out fast – but the second half of your sleep isn’t going to be very restful.
Not only does alcohol dehydrate you, but it also decreases the amount of delta wave sleep you get. And that’s great for runners who hate recovery – delta wave sleep is when your body recovers the most from strenuous physical exercise.
No Pain, No Gain
If you don’t run fast, you’re not going to race fast. So you need to get on the track as much as possible and run as hard as you can. Never mind that University of Colorado Coach Mark Wetmore thinks that distance running is all about the “patient, long-term development of the aerobic metabolism.”
Track intervals should be the corner stone of your training program, done at least five times a week at race pace and faster. Running fast on most days of the weak will leave you exhausted, sore, stiff, and almost guarantees a running injury.
Bonus: After all those hard track sessions, don’t both using your foam roller. It will only make you feel better.
It’s easy to get a running injury by following this formula. A lot of runners adhere to some of these rules and the annual injury rate of 50-75% proves that it works! The next time you realize your consistent, healthy running needs some adversity, then start following some of these running strategies and you’ll have an overuse injury in no time.
Disclaimer: Don’t follow any of this advice. If you haven’t figured it out yet (shame on you), I’m not being serious and actually encouraging you to get injured.
If you want my real advice, get it here!