Runners: How to Lower Your Risk of Injury When Jumping into a High-Mileage Training Plan
Some runners do really well on high-mileage training plans, and, if you're training for a distance race, like a half marathon or marathon, then you're definitely going to be running some high mileage. The main issue to keep in mind as you approach this type of training is that, as you work more miles into your routine, you'll be at a greater risk of injury. Luckily, there are some steps you can take to reduce your risk of injury when running long distances.
Take your rest days.
Any good training plan, even at high mileage, has rest days built into it. However, it's easy to get overzealous and assume you don't need those rest days. Resist the urge to run a few miles on those days, and give your body a chance to recover and repair itself. You'll be better prepared for your upcoming workouts; running them on rested legs will decrease your risk of sprains and tendon injuries. Try not to do anything else strenuous, like hiking or cycling, on your rest days, either. Reserve them for low-key activities like computer work and cleaning the house.
Always give your body time to warm up before moving into your goal pace for the run. For instance, if you're scheduled to run 8 miles at a 7 minute pace, take the time to jog a mile or two of warm-up at a 9 minute pace first. This gives your muscles a chance to ease up and relax before you really put them to work, which will reduce your chances of an injury. The exception to this rule might be your recovery runs. If you're just jogging a few miles on an easy day, you can usually jump right into the run without any warm-up work since the whole workout is done at an easy pace.
Stretch, stretch, stretch.
Runners are constantly told to stretch, but so many still skip this step. It's more important than ever when you're running high mileage. Do some dynamic (moving) stretches like leg swings and high knees before your workout to get the blood flowing to your muscles. After your workout, spend 5 or 10 minutes doing static stretches, like touching your toes and standing on the edge of a stair to stretch your calves. If you don't have an established stretching routine, look for one on YouTube or in a popular running magazine and make it a part of your running routine.
If you're having a lot of soreness and stiffness when running high mileage, contact a physical therapist. It's better to take care of these issues before they turn into a full-blown injury.