Tracking your weekly mileage is the easiest and simplest way to avoid running related injuries. We are born soft and malleable, ready to adapt to new surroundings. As we age, the stresses of life shape the way we look and how we move. Each day, if we do a little bit of anything, the effect is cumulative. We become better equipped to do more of that thing.
Consider that more than double your body weight in force goes through each leg while running, stressing muscles, ligaments and tendons. While there are benefits to being strong and efficient, what matters most is having a sense for how much of this stress your body is primed for, based on what you have conditioned it to do.
Runners must slowly prepare their body to go further, longer and faster. If you’ve been running on a flat indoor track for the last few months, it is not a good idea to do six steep hill sprints with your running group on a Wednesday night at top speed. We are dynamic, adaptable creatures who operate purely on a use it or lose it principle. The same principles apply to people running longer distances, faster and more competitively. Pushing speed too much over a couple of weeks or even a slight change in footwear over 100K per week can lead to injury. While the hills example seems obvious, often injuries develop more subtly.
Generally speaking, avoid increasing your mileage more than 10 per cent per week. Technology has made recording this quite easy – most GPS watches or phone apps have a mileage calculation built in. You can also track running by time – even if you’re just writing down each run on a scrap of paper and sticking it to your fridge. Your body will adapt to incremental change and perform better.
At the end of the day, listen to your body. Take rest days when you need them and push harder if you feel strong. Keep buying your lightweight shoes, doing strength training, and supplementing, but don’t make running any more complicated than it has to be.
After all, patience is a runner’s best friend.