Several times recently, I have found myself reminiscing about my past life as a marathon runner. One of those times was after a friend took up running and suggested I might give tips from "a pro."
Although I was flattered hearing that, and I've had my moments in the sun, I still rarely even consider myself a veteran runner. I just think: why on earth would anyone want advice from the Disaster Magnet? Then it hit me: who better to give advice? If anyone can help avert disaster, it's me. If nothing else, I can encourage new runners to do the exact opposite of what I did. Afterall, the first four years of my running career were marred by three stress fractures,
a torn quad (during a race), and a severely injured pyriformis that left me unable to stand up straight.
In retrospect, one word sums up my mistakes: overtraining. A contributing factor might have been lack of rehab from injuries, but trying to train "through" pain was the major cause of most of my downtime.
These days I am still the Disaster Magnet, but it no longer has to do with OCD running behavior.
I did some thinking. Now that I finally learned how to stay injury free, what are the most important tips I can give a new runner who is about to catch (or already has caught) the running fever? This is what I came up with:
1. Get the best pair of shoes you can afford and I don't mean mean break the bank for the latest and greatest. Instead, evaluate your footstrike and try several different shoes made for your gait. I have made a career out of finding good running shoes for less than $60. If you do find the perfect pair (after running in them for several weeks), buy as many as you can (because they will inevitably be discontinued).
2. Don't run the same route daily, and run for time, not distance. There's nothing more maddening that will lead to obsessive behavior quicker than timing how long it takes to run the same route and distance every day.
3. Listen to your body, not your brain. Pain, as well as general muscle soreness, should never last more than 3-5 days. If it does, STOP running. Do NOT limp your way through a 20 miler waiting for the endorphins to kick in.
4. Don't run with the flu, a chest cold or an upper-respiratory bacterial infection (unless you enjoy bronchitis or pneumonia) - get antibiotics first. Run with a head cold only if you feel up to it, but go easy and short.
5. Make your easy days EASY. Be wary of mental stress levels and run easy on high stress days.
6. Set goals. And if you decide to race, don't put all your eggs in one basket. Have several goal races so if something goes wrong, like, for instance, the weather, you have other performances to hang your hat on.
7. Constantly remind yourself why you run and if you are no longer enjoying it, stop doing it long enough to "recharge the batteries."
8. Never run someone else's workout (or race).
9. Get a good night's sleep as often as possible (I still have trouble with this one).
10. Find a good doctor who understands runners.
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