I went from beat down and injured to running 1,000 miles injury-free. I wasn’t sure this was possible. I felt defeated last summer after hamstring and groin injuries halted my training. Shin splints didn’t help. This year I feel completely different. I’ve run 1,000 miles injury-free and today I’ll tell you how I’m doing it. Let’s get into it!

How to Prevent Running Injuries

After my injuries last summer, I dove into the research to see why my body broke down. I put out a post titled, How to Prevent Running Injuries and What I Did Wrong. The topics covered then are the key reasons I’ve stayed healthy now. But I want to provide an update on a few key items.

VDOT Running Program

Previously, I mentioned the idea of only increasing weekly mileage by 10-15% from week-to-week. Over the past four months of my current VDOT training, I’ve taken an even more conservative approach: maintaining the same weekly mileage. 25 miles per week for four straight months. Since most running injuries are overuse injuries [1], and you can’t improve at running while injured, I’ve enjoyed this conservative approach. I’m not planning to run in an Olympic race in a couple of weeks. We’ll save that for Paris 2024. Right now, I’m playing the long game. How good can I get in a couple of years? I’m not rushing the progression for a few seconds gained here or there.

My Running Log for April, May, and June of 2022

But that doesn’t mean my training isn’t progressing. Each month, my weekly run structure changes. The demand increases. My faster threshold and intervals paces last a little longer. The rest times are a little shorter. It’s these slight changes each month that continue my progress while maintaining a minimal risk of injury.

Running Surfaces

What has changed drastically are the surfaces I run on. Last year, all my runs were completed on concrete and asphalt. Two of the hardest running surfaces. Concrete being nearly ten times harder than asphalt. This wasn’t easy on the body. This year I knew I needed to add more forgiving options.

(Grass, Earth, Cinders, Asphalt, Concrete, Snow) – I Like Earth/Cinders

I found an article from Runner’s World called, what is the best surface to run on to avoid getting injured? This was key for me. Grass, dirt, and stony trails topped the list of best running surfaces. I had to add these into my routine. Now most weekends I’ll travel to a local trail to log my easy miles on these soft surfaces. While I’d love to do 80% of my miles on this stuff, living in the city is a bit challenging. I still use asphalt for my speed work, but I avoid concrete whenever possible. This typically means choosing the road or bordering grass when available. Or using my parent’s treadmill or local track to mix things up. Studies recommend the majority of training sessions be performed on a soft surface so I’m doing what I can to achieve that [2]. So far so good.

My Running Shoes

I also mentioned previously that shoes matter little in preventing injury. There’s no evidence of shoe age, brand, cost, support structure, heel drop, or anything shoe related that significantly prevents injury. But there are some guidelines I’ve followed. I now have two pairs of shoes that I rotate between each run. Hoka Clifton 7’s and New Balance 1080v10’s are my regulars. I like both. Alternating between these shoes helps prevent mechanical overload or over-use injuries. I am planning to get new shoes soon that better suit my training needs so stay tuned for that! Although they may not prevent injury, they may improve performance and comfort. [3]

My Current Running Shoes

Stretching Routine

Although there’s not much scientific backing on stretching for injury prevention, I’ve now added it to my routine. I finish every run with fifteen minutes of lower body stretching. Two sets of thirty second holds per muscle group. If improving muscle flexibility, joint range of motion, and re-establishing proper length-tension relationships doesn’t prevent injury, it at least improves quality of life. I think it’s well worth it.

Lifting for Injuries

Lastly, I’ve not only been consistent with strength training, but I’ve really focused on previously injured tissues. For months I’ve been progressively overloading my hamstrings and groin muscles. They’re now stronger than ever. And although this doesn’t eliminate the risk of reinjury, it certainly reduces it.

Final Thoughts

Preventing all injuries is impossible. Eventually, I’ll restrain my hamstring or twist an ankle. Probably the day after I post this. But I’ve implemented certain protocols that’ve diminished the risk. I’m on a slow, progressive training program that helps prevent overload injuries. I’m running on more forgiving surfaces like dirt trails. I’m alternating running shoes, stretching regularly, and strengthening previously injured muscles. And this has allowed me to run 1,000 miles injury-free. These are my latest habits for health excellence.

Hi, I’m Brandon Zerbe

Welcome to myHealthSciences! Every week I share habits for health excellence. I do this by covering topics like Fitness, Nutrition, Sleep, Cognition, Finance and Minimalism. You can learn more about me here.