What advice would you give a new runner about running injuries?

Let’s talk about your support network. Do you have one? Do you have an inner circle of trusted runners you can reach out to for advice?

Race Front Runners

I’ve been fortunate to have had hundreds of teammates over my 8-year career running cross country and track in high school and college. And over those years, I had over TEN coaches that gave me invaluable advice, suggestions, and recommendations on how to achieve my goals.

If I had a bad race, someone was there to tell me I could do better – and hold me accountable to push myself next time.

When I was running well, I had several coaches to encourage me (and to reign me in when I was doing too much, too soon).

And when I got hurt, I had a team of trainers and coaches to help me get healthy.

One of my big goals with Strength Running is to bring that advice to you. You may not have had that many coaches to learn from. Or been on a team for nearly a decade. But you can still learn from them through SR.

Today, when I ask for advice, I always go to those who are performing at the highest levels. The wisdom, nuance, and guidance is simply unparalleled.

This is why when I hired a runner to write the Boston Course GuideI chose a 2:25 marathoner who has run the Boston Marathon FOUR times. I wanted to make sure readers of this book knew the important aspects of the Boston course and Athlete’s Village, while ignoring the details that won’t help you run a better marathon.

It’s why I interviewed leading experts like Matt Fitzgerald, Alex Hutchinson, Brad Hudson, and Dr. Peter Larson (among others) for Injury Prevention for Runners. The program includes over four hours of audio with the world’s smartest authors, coaches, clinicians, and researchers.

And it’s why I demand to be held accountable as a coach. I’m 100% transparent that I don’t know everything – but after 16+ years of training, having over 10 coaches myself, and getting my runners results like this and this, I’m confident I can help you prevent more injuries.

Recently, runners who have invested in my injury prevention program have been telling me how they’re doing now. The results are powerful:

“Last year I had a calf injury and ITB problems and running suddenly became painful and really frightening. So I researched and researched and finally chose to use Jason’s Injury Prevention program. Since then I have had no further issues and am back stronger than ever running with my two buddies who are 10 and 15 years my junior.

Being sidelined with an injury was devastating. So I made sure it did NOT happen again. I am so grateful that I found this program which has enabled me to recover quickly and to prevent any further injuries. After all I need something on my side if I am going to challenge them over the last few kilometers!” – Gina

“This program has transformed my running, giving me much better focus on both how I run and also on my strength training to support it. My running has never felt better and I am able to run further, faster and on harder courses than ever before.” – Thomas

“This program has really changed the way I train and I am so happy to have more control over preventing injuries. I never would get to the cause of why I was getting injured and the cycle would continue, one injury after another. This program gives you the full spectrum of injury prevention and it has helped me make leaps and bounds in my training. Thanks so much!” – Mike

Awesome! How would you feel if you could run without all those constant aches and pains? If you could feel energized for your runs and not dread yet another running injury?

Staying healthy can be a game-changer for most runners. You’ll finally experience consistent training and be able to run more, run faster, and feel good doing it!

If that sounds good to you, check out these free injury prevention videos.

Coming Back Strong – Elites on How to Prevent Injuries

Today I want to highlight the injury prevention advice from world-class runners – those who know what it’s like to train really hard and sometimes suffer a serious running injury. While these runners may not be in your support network (we should all be so lucky!), we can certainly learn from them.

There’s an excellent reason why I chose to share these quotes from elite runners: pros have perspective and know what it takes to achieve their potential. Training and injury prevention principles are UNIVERSAL, meaning the same strategies that work for a pro can work for me and you. We just need to scale them down a bit!

These are excerpts from Coming Back Strong: Distance Runners on Injury, Cross Training, & Rehab by Don Kopriva. Here he interviews 76 elite runners (!) about how they deal with injuries and how to return from injury stronger than ever.

Evan Jager: “Enjoy every single day I get to do what I love, which is running”

Evan Jager is a Nike-sponsored athlete and the current American Record holder in the 3,000m Steeplechase with an 8:06.81. He was a two-time All-American at the University of Wisconsin-Madison before he turned professional after his freshman year.

His thoughts on being injured and preventing injuries:

“The main thing I’ve learned from every injury I’ve had is to enjoy every single day I get to do what I love, which is running.

As a runner, you need to know when you can and cannot push your body through aches, pains, and potential injuries. During my most recent injury I either stationary biked or aqua jogged for 60 minutes.”

Lessons learned: enjoy running when you’re healthy, understand soreness vs. potential injuries, and cross-train when you’re hurt.

Dathan Ritzenhein: “The harder I work out when injured, the faster my comeback is”

Dathan Ritzenhein is one of the most decorated American distance runners of all time. He’s a two-time national high school cross country the champion, NCAA cross country champion, former American Record holder in the 5,000m, the second fastest American born half marathoner of all time, and a two-time Olympian. You can also read this interview with Dathan that I did in 2012.

More important than his accomplishments is his injury history: with nearly ten stress fractures and multiple other foot injuries. Dathan knows a thing or two about dealing with injuries!

“[When injured,] give yourself goals. It’s always easier to take small steps toward the end goal. Don’t live by those goals, however. If you’re not ready to run yet, don’t set yourself back by running too early.

Don’t run through something that’s getting worse. You’re not indestructible. Take care of it before it becomes a season-ending injury. Get on the therapy and cross training right away and the time lost will be minimal. I train more when I’m injured than when I’m healthy. I put in so much more time because it makes my return to good fitness so much faster.”

Lessons learned: set goals that propel you forward, be proactive about small pains that could turn into injuries, and cross train as much as possible.

Galen Rupp: “If you cross train diligently, you’ll be amazed at the fitness you retain”

Galen Rupp is an Olympic silver medalist and the American record holder in the 10k and indoor 3k, 2-mile, and 5k. He’s run 26:44 for 10k and 3:50 in the mile and is a 5-time USA Outdoor Track & Field National Champion.

Impressive, isn’t it? Here’s his advice on how to deal with running injuries:

“There are a lot of things that you can train through, but you have to be smart about it. Be patient and understand that everyone will get injuries during their career. The great athletes are those who are able to weather tough times and get through periods of disappointment.

If you cross train diligently and put in the work, you’ll be amazed at the fitness you retain. Getting hurt should not make you train less or be scared to push things. Just make sure to learn from past mistakes and be smart with your training.”

Lessons learned: Patience and diligence when injured is key, cross train if you’re hurt, and don’t get scared to run hard again once you’re healthy!

Now let’s hear YOUR advice!

Seeing these quotes from some of the world’s best runners makes me realize we have more in common than we think. Even though these runners can perform at levels I can’t even fathom, we can still learn from them.

My favorite lessons here are:

  1. Understand soreness vs. pain and be super proactive about injury prevention
  2. Cross train when you’re hurt
  3. Be patient! Injuries happen to everyone

Let’s hear from you, too, so we can all learn from the collective wisdom of the Strength Running community and broaden our support network.

Leave a comment below answering this: What have you learned about injury prevention during your running career?

I’ll choose my favorite reply and ship the winner – US only – a free book of their choice (a running book, 50 Shades of Grey, whatever you want)!

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  1. The biggest lesson I have learned about injury prevention is put in the time in the front end to reap the rewards. When I started running longer distances, I tried to rely solely on my athletic ability and determination. I had played soccer since I was 4 and played Lacrosse in high school and college. I thought those were much harder than running because they were physical sports. I was wrong.

    I quickly dealt with ITBS and a herniated disc from not cross training enough. My first half marathon was a disappointing 2 hours and 20 minutes plus of pain. I knew I had to do something different. I had to put in the time cross training, building up endurance and strength. Jason helped me by showing me how to strengthen and loosen my hips, how to actively warm up for running, how to rest after hard runs, and how to develop a different type of mental stamina required to run further and faster.

    I built back up and ran my next half marathon in 1:56 plus. And that was with me stopping for a beer near the end of the run on H St in DC to celebrate as I knew I had finally accomplished what I wanted. The hard work in the gym, early nights, and long runs finally paid off. As Benjamin Franklin said, ‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.’

  2. Strength training is so important. Warming up is key. Two injury prevention lessons learned right here on strengthrunning!

    I think another important facet of injury prevention is knowing when to give yourself a break. I’ve always had a problem taking true rest days. I feel like if I’m not moving, I’m doing something wrong. This is obviously not always the case, especially for injury prevention/recovery. Taking some time off before an injury is most likely to happen, such as when you feel worn down or are sick, is a really important lesson to learn and practice. It hasn’t been easy, but I’m getting better at it!

  3. Laura Bramble says:

    Listen to your body. Even if you have a custom made training plan, the plan is designed for a healthy, well-rested runner. Life and your body don’t always go according to plan. While others may be experts on running, there’s only one expert on your body and how it feels— YOU. So listen to what your body is telling you and respect what it has to say. Cut back a little if you need to, push a little harder on the days you feel great.

    Success in a marathon does not happen in any individual mile, it is the sum of all the miles put together. Same with training for one; an extra day of rest or a lightened workout when your body tells you it needs it is not going to blow your training as long as you make sure your overall training effort is good!

  4. Elizabeth Hanselman says:

    As a 65-year-woman who had no athletic background and started running during the “Running Boom” of the 1980’s I’ve had my share of challenges. However, a coach encouraged me to “do weights” years ago and I began not only to get stronger but also be more aware. At this point I know my body well enough to know when I’m just tolerably sore or when I’m on the edge of something serious. This may sound absolutely heretical, but I take walking breaks during my long runs and do no more than one “hard” workout per week. I am a big believer in strength training and was attracted to your website because you provide exercises that work! I also concentrate on “form work”, that is, exercises that address the muscle imbalances most people have (weak glutes, contracted psoas, collapsed torso). Since “doing weights” the only problem I’ve had is metatarsal pain which has been alleviated by going to a more minimal shoe…those cluncky heels as far as I am concerned, do more damage than good. The other factors are nutrition & quality rest. Almost immediately after a workout I drink a protein shake adding flax seed oil which is a natural anti-inflammatory along with making sure I have good, quality sleep. Lights out at 10 PM the latest! There are a number of things to consider when putting together an effective training schedule but for me the biggest factor is BE AWARE!

    • I agree completely! Walking breaks can make all the difference for older tendons and joints, to enable injury free training for longer distances. But mostly, as you say, be aware, and make changes accordingly.

  5. 1. Get good shoes. It will make a huge difference when you are running.
    2. Do the strengthening exercises and stretches – Consistently. Make it your routine. My hurts started going away once I disciplined myself to do them consistently (Stretching before and after running, Strengthening exercises after running + whenever i work out)
    3. Use the foam rollers to stretch out sore muscles – they are miracle workers. And follow the correct instructions. (Youtube it, or look it up online – there are many articles detailing correct ways to use it.) It hurts a lot in the beginning or on extremely tight muscles, but the results after are totally worth it.
    4. If you’re injured, don’t be silly and make it worse by going back to intense running immediately. Rest up and CROSS train if you need to keep on the move.

    • Kira Krukowski says:

      You said exactly what I would say! The only other thing I would add is: if you cannot fix your injuries yourself, seek professional advice. I read countless books and blogs about running and form. I thought I was doing it correctly until I finally hired a running coach and saw on her video analysis that I was completely over-striding and swinging my arms side to side too much. That feedback was so helpful, along with having someone run behind me/beside me several times to remind me of the corrections I needed to make.

      Doing the strength exercises I found on this website were extremely helpful, and I love that they are not so exhausting. I had a PT having me do so many strength exercises that I was always too fatigued to run. That is just plain silly!

      I would also add that doing the dynamic stretching before runs and rolling out the “ouchies” or tightness after runs is so important.

      Oh, and stay positive. Don’t let setbacks get you down. Learn from them and move on. You get what you give in life, so smile at other runners, offer encouragement, and join all sorts of groups. Run on the trails, run on the road, run on the treadmill (if you must), but keep running strong and healthy!

  6. I’ve learned three very important things about injuries:
    #1 Listen to Jason!
    #2 An ounce of injury prevention is worth a pound of injury cure.
    #3 Listen to Jason!

  7. My philosophy is loosely based in the treatment of any injuries – RICES.
    Rest – it’s horrible and makes you fidget, loses to nation, strength and many gained seconds, but the further you go, the greater the damage will be and the higher chance it wil be permanent.

    Ice/ibruprofen – after stretching; after any exercise which uses the injured area and after a hot bath! Keeps the swelling down, but also after being hot, it helps strengthen the capillaries which deliver all the goodness from your blood to the injured area. Ibruprofen aids in preventing the swelling and is a pain relief – not to be used during exercise!

    Compression – start using compression in that injured area, even double up. The restriction gives support and the compression again helps the delivery service from the blood.

    Ease back – stop pushing it. You’ve gone too far and have imbalanced yourself somehow, so cut down the distance or transfer it to low impact like cycling, swimming or a cross trainer. Let the injured area repair. No one likes working under stress and trying to meet deadlines that are rediculous, so why make your muscles do the same? It Leeds to them being singed off work due to stress and a non compassionate team leader.

    Stengthen – my worst injury was on my ITB and I never considered that my muscles didn’t all fire properly when running. Strengthening exercises build up the muscles which we think we are using, but aren’t. Jump squats, medicine ball squats, bosu ball lunges and walking like a constipated chimpanzee with a rubber band around your ankles; is all it takes to start getting back that feeling of elation when running.

  8. As a young adult, I ran every single day- never varying from the three to six mile tempo-run style workouts. I felt that I couldn’t justify eating without getting my run in…I know…unhealthy :/ Of course I eventually got injured from the repetition and lack of strength and cross training to round out my running obsession. Turning to yoga, I dove in to a daily intense practice…thinking “yoga is good for you!”…Again- I got injured…hips/knees..the essentials. Now I’m in my late 40’s and finally figuring out that it was my mind that I needed to strengthen (which is eventually what I figured out about yoga…that it really has nothing to do with the asanas..but, controlling your mind). I took the blinders off and started over- found your website among others and read as much as I could- I reinvented my running to include:
    increasing cadence/keeping my knees under me…engaging my glutes (turning on the butt light/engines up the hills)
    rotating shoes
    STRENGTH training 🙂 Lots of core- so hard…but so worth it
    incorporating intervals, hills and slow runs

    So…my first marathon is in four weeks- Twin Cities. I can’t stop thinking about it- feeling strong and injury free 🙂 I’m already planning what to do after. What’s next?

  9. I totally agree with doing strengthening/stretching exercises- stretching before and after you run. I do the “Magic Six” before and after that stretches all major areas….. Glutes, quad, hams, calf, back, hips. Keeping your muscles balanced and rolled out will help keep you running consistently. Also, I think It’s important not to get caught up in other runners pace or mileage. It’s so easy to get caught up in what someone else is doing. You are the master of your own body, tune into your body, your own rhythm, and your own ability. If something doesn’t feel quite right, back off. Roll it, stretch it, ice it, rest it and you’ll be amazed how quickly you can recover without a full blown injury. Keep going……and it’ll most likely take you out. Remember, EZ is very easy, HARD is hard. You can’t go hard everyday and stay sound.

  10. Dorothy Vaughan says:

    As a runner, what I have learned about injury prevention…I’ve learned the hard way. Like many others, I have an “athletic” background, so I just “decided to start running.” Making matters worse, I never got into a routine of injury prevention because my injuries didn’t happen right away. I stretched and got a massage every now and then, but I wasn’t thinking about this the proper way.

    I’ve had a couple of good bouts of IT band adhesions, knee pain, hip pain, foot pain and most recently, a hamstring injury that would have never been as bad as it was – if – I had thought as much about my core, potential imbalances, etc as I thought about my running/ training plans! I was always thinking about “production” and not enough about the *machinery* enabling that production.

    Injury prevention is not difficult. It doesn’t take “mounds” of time. Like running, it takes persistence to see improvement. Injury prevention does not require any tools/ equipment, except your own body (though some equipment might enable your body to adapt more quickly). There’s not 1 right exercise – there are several very good exercises. There are a few bad exercises, as well.

    Jason also asked a slightly different question: “What advice would you give a new runner about running injuries?” As many others have said, there is a meaningful difference between “tight and sore” versus “on the verge” of something not working properly. If you are “on the verge” or “over the verge” and have an injury, you must, *must* address it. If not, you’ll simply make your performance suffer, the pain worse, your rehab and return to running (likely) slower and fragile. (At least, that is my experience). Important: there is not 1 way to address an injury. *Yes*, rest (the injury-producing motion). *Yes*, cross-train to stimulate other muscles and different movements and to maintain your endurance/ fitness. And, *no*, don’t assume you know how to fix it. (At least, that is my experience). Ask other runners, work with a PT, get myofascial release, stretch, strengthen, etc. We are freakishly dedicated to running. Time to be freakishly dedicated to our bodies. Realize something: recovery probably won’t happen as fast as you want… you’ll want to jump ahead. One word of advice: Don’t. Put in the time. You will come back as strong or stronger than you were before. Or, perhaps put this way…do you want to miss 1 race (“…no…”) or would you rather miss an entire season (…”hell no!…”). Choice is yours.

    In my case, I had a chronic hamstring tendon injury. And, I thought I had the answers and knew the right thing to do (I do have a degree in Exercise Physiology and worked as a Fitness Trainer for several years – yeah, LOL). Problem: My approach wasn’t “wrong”, but I was 4-6 months ahead of where my actual recovery was. There were fundamental issues that I wasn’t addressing…that were keeping me injured. Read: running injured for 18 months – times not progressing, pushing through pain in every single race. I had to completely rebuild my core (myofascial work, flexibility, strength) and focus on running form. It’s taken 8-9 months. I say I am still recovering from my injury, because it is a work in progress. Now, there’s been tons of progress, but I still have to think about it and do the things that will allow me to progress to “no injury” status and (hopefully) keep me injury free.

    Strength Running has given me very tangible, relevant tools to help me progress. Its not the only thing I do, but SR keeps me grounded, focused and helps me move forward. I’ve got a marathon to run in about 7 weeks. Without focusing on proper injury recovery and ongoing injury prevention, I would NEVER be where I am today…I would still be injured and frustrated and ready to quit.

  11. Having battled with injuries throughout most of my time running, the biggest thing I tell the athletes I coach is to listen to your body. Very rarely would I encourage someone to run while injured or with a risk of getting hurt worse (the only exceptions are situations with seniors running their last race or something like that). I constantly tell my athletes that there are no “tough guys” in practice. It’s much better to step off of the track, trail, or treadmill for a short time for your injury to recover than to be forced out after ignoring the warning signs.
    Of course, athletes don’t want to hear this. What runner wants to be on a bike or in the pool? Certainly not me. I didn’t want to hear this when I was training at a high level. I didn’t tell my coaches when I was hurt, because I wanted to compete. The athletes I have now are no different, and I can only do so much to have then learn from the stories if my mistakes.

    In short, your body knows when something is wrong; listen to the warning signs to avoid long term injury.

  12. I would also say LISTEN TO JASON! 😉 LOL
    Seriously though, I have learned so much from SR, and wish I hadn’t spent so much on PT when I learned the same, or actually more, from this website and the Healthy Running Playbook that I purchased for $29! To be honest I still have to implement a lot of the exercises but having just started recently, I can already tell it’s going to work for me. Looking forward to the fall season and helping others to prevent injury! 🙂

  13. I am 50+ person and have been working my way back from a chronic knee injury for the past 2+years. The worst things I have done have been to ignore the pain to the point of injury, and then to believe that the injury was too chronic and I would never run again. With the help of the right shoes for me (minimalist), constant awareness of form and body feedback (thank you yoga), and a good training plan to incorporate running-specific strengthening exercises (thank you Jason), I am a few weeks away from my first half-marathon, injury free and feeling good!

    My advice –
    First: Along with training muscles, train your attention to sense your body. Your form will improve, and you will know when to pull back and rest BEFORE you reach the point of injury.

    Second: Find a good integral plan to build up the strength of the running system – we are not a collection of independently moving parts! – and stick to it, allowing extra rest if needed.

  14. As a 56 yr. old, I’ve learned that injuries are the major obstacle to overcome for beginners.
    Start with the basic fundamentals:

    1. Go to a certified “running” shoe outlet (preferably a privately owned outlet) that specializes in shoe fitting. Don’t chance a running regimen without the proper shoe. Be prepared to drop $100++ here. That’s just the way it is. You will most likely find the proper running apparel there also (NO COTTON !!).

    2. Take advantage of the MULTIPLE sources of info out there concerning this sport. Act as if you know nothing from the start. I prepared for a recent half-marathon by following the seasoned advice of Jason and other pros (great books out there to help also)…This concerns TECHNIQUE and NUTRITION (both critically important).

    3. Be diligent but patient.

  15. I think the key thing about injuries is that so many new runners think they won’t happen to them; that they are somehow built differently to everyone else. Then they get injured, somewhere down the line. And that’s the key thing: that you learn from the injury by looking back at your training records, at your shoes and at your warm up and warm down routines and figure out where you went wrong, because now you know that you don’t want it to happen again. Whether the injury is chronic enough to affect your everyday life or whether it’s just enough to keep you off the roads and trails for a while, being injured is awful. So go out there and make a few mistakes, because everyone does. Just don’t make the same mistakes twice.

  16. Runners all get injured at some time or other – it is how you deal with them that become the important question.

    Sometimes injuries just happen and no amount of preventative planning/training/form work or whatever else you have in your bag of tricks will stop it. What is important is not to dwell on the injury, yeah try to figure out why, but sometimes you will not find the answer or reason and what becomes important is how you treat the injury. If it is beyond your knowledge, whether a newbie or old pro seek professional medical help beyond Dr. Google.

  17. I’ve learned most of my running knowledge from reading your blogs. I do cross train when I have time. I love doing Yoga for core strengthening as well as following your instructions for dynamic/standard warm-up routines. I also do your Core routine. Thank you for offering info freely to new runners like myself.

  18. Thank you for the great article! This is a must read for new runners getting started. My Dr. has a runners rehab clinic in NYC that is amazing and he has a ton on articles on his site. Thanks again for sharing!