So often I see runners make mistakes that athletes in other sports easily avoid. One of the most common ones is implementing variability into their training – or lack thereof! It’s fairly common knowledge that we shouldn’t go to the gym and spend all week just lifting for the arms; you’d break down, not give yourself enough time to recover, and ultimately end up injured. The good news is, we can make easy modifications like this for runners and reduce their risk for injury.
The easiest transition to make is to alter the pace at which you are running. Our form changes slightly as we run at different paces, often getting more efficient as we run faster. These slight changes in form provide different stresses to your body, allowing previously stressed tissues to relax and recover, while working out others that might otherwise have been neglected.
Picking different terrain to run on will also help significantly. Obviously, it would be great to spend every day running on soft, forested trails. And whenever we can, we should! But we can also make adjustments at home. Switch the sides of the road on which you run, run at different times of day, find flat courses some days and hilly ones the next. Little changes like these can add up over time and again provide different stresses that let certain parts of your legs recover while getting others a workout they might not have known.
Finally, having two pairs of shoes has also been proven to reduce injury risk. Just like every car drives a bit differently, every shoe directs ground impact forces through the legs slightly differently. A day off in between runs allows the foam in the shoes to rebound as well, increasing their ability to absorb shock on your next run. Of course, you want to have two quality pairs of shoes that fit your body type well. Your local running store is a great resource to help with that process.
As you can see, small changes when lumped together can add up to make big differences over time. Because runners log so many steps (on average 1,400 per mile) these changes can have a great impact on training and performance. Races can often be unpredictable – so we might as well train with variations! Add in the fact that it will keep you healthier, and we’ve got a great combination.