Injury Free Running

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Disclaimer:
I’m not a doctor/lawyer/scientist.  I have been running for over two decades, as much as 70 miles per week and as little as zero.  I’ve been injured a handful of times and it sucks.  I came to a point where I was getting injured frequently and considered not running anymore, but it’s a lifestyle for me.  It makes me happy.  This information is what I have found to work for me.  I will try to present it as succinct and informative as possible.  Consult your doctor/lawyer/spiritual healer if you have any existing conditions that may interfere with physical activity.

Existing Injury:
If your broken, you need to heal.  Active recoveries are possible, but need to be executed with caution.  Tendinitis plagued me multiple times, and this helped me address it.

Eat/Sleep/Stress:
What you eat matters.  Avoid crap.  Sugar is the king of crap.  Don’t overeat.  You can’t overeat vegetables (well, you’d really have to try).  Like your miles, make your calories count.  Sleep is very important.  You need to get adequate quantity and quality.  This is a tough one, but keep your trend in the right direction.  Sleeping on the couch with the TV on doesn’t count.  Don’t sleep with a full stomach.
Stresses of all types are carried in the body.  You can’t go at 100% in all things all the time.  Training/eating/sleeping smart can help, but it’s all part of the same pie.  Learn to balance.  Done right, running can lower stress; done wrong, you end up broken or sick.

Heart Rate Monitor:
It doesn’t need to be fancy (but go nuts if you want to).  Just a heart rate display and a stopwatch might be all you need; there are tons of options.  http://www.dcrainmaker.com/ is probably the best sites for getting info on heart rate monitors.

This is the important part.  There are 4 heart-rate zones that I will discuss. These are approximate, but should work for most people.
120-150: recovery zone
150-165: aerobic zone
165-180: anaerobic threshold
180+: anaerobic

If you are sick, injured, or recovering from a race/workout, stay in the recovery zone.  Most of your mileage should be in the aerobic zone.  On hill climbs you can let it creep up a little, but try to stay within the zone.  It will feel really slow at first, but your body will adapt as you gain efficiency.  The adaptation to this may take a few weeks or a few months depending on fitness. You will finish runs feeling less beat down.  On longer runs you’ll find that your heart-rate will increase over distance; eventually you will not be able to stay in the aerobic zone.  At that point, it’s probably time to finish your run, unless you are knowingly going out for your long run and following the 50/50 rule.

50/50 Rule:
No more than 50% of your weekly mileage should come from one run.
No more than 50% of your runs should be above the aerobic zone.

Mileage Increase:
Increase no more than 5 miles per week.
After 3 weeks of increases, recovery week of 10 miles less than the previous week.

Form/Shoes:
I believe that shoes with higher heel heights are detrimental to running form.  You don’t need to go “minimalist” to get shoes that allow you to practice good form.  Over-striding with excessive heel striking is really hard on the body.  Minimalist shoes are a great training tool and need to be used carefully.  Transitioning from traditional running shoes to minimal-style needs to be done carefully and gradually, over time.  It’s like rebooting your running.  This is deep subject, but worth learning.

Stretching/Muscle Balance:
Moderate stretching after running should be included in your cool down routine.  Range of motion and muscle balance are important.  Cross training and strength training are also a great way to assist with muscle balance.

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