9 Tips For Healthy, Fun, Injury-Free Running

Written by Jordan Metzl, M.D.
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There is the thinking behind what's going to help you run your best for the rest of your life, and then there's the action you need to take. Here is my prescription for healthy, injury-free running. Take it and I promise you will build a healthy body, feel great, and get to the finish line faster.

1. Train for your level of fitness and your goals.

Don't run more miles or harder miles than your body can handle.

Not every runner needs a formal training schedule. If you run for fitness and your goal is 30 minutes a day, that's cool, but if you are just starting out, you need to get there gradually.

2. Wear the right shoes for your feet and use inserts if you need them.

You will hear, if you haven't already, lots of opinions about whether running shoes really help prevent injury and whether you should even wear them. I'm in the camp that thinks the right running shoes can help correct foot-motion issues that lead to injury, and I believe that some of you may need a little added assistance from inserts.

3. Work on your (other) muscle strength one or two times a week, every week.

If you are one of those runners who has never stepped inside a gym other than to use the treadmill or who hasn't done a pushup since high school fitness testing, get ready to bust some strength moves.

4. Foam-roll all your muscles every day.

You have probably seen them: high-density foam cylinders about 6 inches in diameter that generally come in lengths of 18 or 36 inches. Get one. Get to know it. It will be your body's best friend.

5. Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night.

Maybe 6 hours is all you need or 9 is your ideal. But be honest about how much sleep you need and stick to it. Don't get all caught up in the puffery around the water cooler about how much everyone is doing on 5 hours of shut-eye. The cool runner is the one who wins the race and the promotion. Sleep will get you there.

6. Fuel your body right for running and recovery.

A good prerun meal plan is one that keeps you stepping strong. And after a workout or race, you need to deliver the right nutrients to all the microscopic body rebuilders in your muscles so they can do their job and get you back into tiptop shape for your run tomorrow.

7. Make time (and a budget) for massage twice a month.

Your body will thank you. Regular massage is an investment in healthy muscles, faster recovery, and postworkout pain relief. Believe me, it's worth every penny.

8. Pay attention to pain.

I know runners. I have seen plenty of you as patients. You don't quit until you are hobbling around like a lame horse. But by that time, your injury may have progressed to the point of no return to the road for weeks. Here's my rule: When pain changes the way you run, stop running, figure out what's going on, and treat it, and use dynamic rest to stay in shape until you are back on your running feet.

9. Have fun.

Isn't that why we do this?

Adapted from Dr. Jordan Metzl’s Running Strong by Jordan Metzl with Claire Kowalchik. Copyright (c) 2015 by Rodale Inc. By permission of Rodale Books. Available wherever books are sold.

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