The best that we can do is be smart about how we train/take care of ourselves, listen to what our body tells us, and respond accordingly.
Below are a few items that can help reduce the chances of injury/aggravation:
Stretch Daily (30 sec.-1 min. per side every day)
- Calves-There are a few different ways of doing this. But, one quick/dirty way is to prop your foot against a curb and lean forward. This will stretch your calf and achilles.
- Piriformis-Bend your knees and cross one leg over the opposite knee. This stretches the IT Band and the piriformis
- Hip Flexors-Check out this link to get an idea of what this stretch looks like: Hip Flexor Stretch.
- IT Band-Bend your knees and cross one leg over the opposite knee. This stretches the IT Band and the piriformis
- Hamstrings-Put one leg in front at a 30-45 degree angle and lean forward. This stretches the hamstrings
- Quads-Stand with your feet shoulder with apart and bring one foot up flush against your butt. Hold the leg for 30 seconds. Switch legs. This one stretches the Quads.
- Soles of feet-If you have a tennis ball, golf ball, or something similar you can use this to stretch/massage the soles of you feet.
- CHIPS-At a minimum aim to stretch the Calves, Hip Flexors, IT Band, Piriformis, and Soles of the feet.
Strengthen running muscles and stabilize the core.
- Quads (1 set of 20 reps, 3 times/week). Wall Squats-Sitting squats are effectively the same motion/exercise, but you're sitting against the wall when you're doing them.
- Hips (1 set of 20 reps, 3 times/week). A)Hip Bridges-This is one that is probably new to you, but here's an excellent link illustrating how it's done-Hip Bridge Illustration.
- Trunk(Stomach) (planks up to 1 min., crunches until exhaustion-3 times/week).
A)Planks- Basically, you're lying down on your stomach. Your forearms should be used to support your weight. Engage your abs and hold your upper body above the ground using your forearms to brace yourself. Keep your back straight and the abs engaged. Count to 30-60 seconds for each plank.
B)Crunches-This one shouldn't require any explanation.
Change shoes often.
The rule of thumb around is 300-500 miles. But, I know only a handful of people who truly track their mileage in any kind of substantive way. If you've been running regularly in your shoes 3 months (or longer), they need to be replaced. If you can fold the front of your shoe in half easily, your midsole is likely compressed and your risk of injury is higher. If you see a lot of creases, folds, or wrinkles in the midsoles (the white portion) of your shoes, you likely need to replace your shoes. Also bear in mind that if you've had a pair of running shoes for a year or two (even if you haven't logged a TON of miles in them), they probably need to be replaced.
Rotate shoes every day or so.
For the budget-conscious this may not be possible. But, there's a reason why you see me wearing about six different pairs of shoes when I run. If I'm doing a faster workout, I tend to like a shoe that is lighter and provides less guidance/support. If I'm doing an easy, shorter run, I like wearing Nike Frees b/c they strengthen my feet/lower legs. For LONG runs (10+ miles), I prefer a shoe that provides a reasonable amount of cushioning, stability, and support. In short, mixing up my running shoes has a variety of benefits, most of which revolve around staying healthy and injury-free!
Increase distance slowly/appropriately.
If you're following the schedule for the most part, you're doing just fine. But, if you miss a bunch of runs and try to 'make up' mileage, you're putting yourself at risk. You can't CRAM for a half marathon or a marathon. You can't FORCE your body to adapt. That's why it takes roughly 9-12 weeks to train for a half marathon and 18-24 weeks for a full marathon. This is 'roughly' how much time it takes an 'average' person to prepare.
Hydrate well before and after runs
Urine should be clear/copious before a run. This is an indication that you're hydrated. Similarly, you want to hydrate after your run enough such that urine returns to being clear and copious. This make take a few glasses of water/gatorade/accelerate/etc. before the yellow color disappears.
Stand on one foot while brushing your teeth.
Maybe not one foot the ENTIRE time as it may take a few minutes to brush. BUT, this will help you with balance AND foot strengthening.
Massage any muscle you want, anytime.
I believe I introduced most of you to the stick and/or foam roller. Owning one or both of these devices is a GREAT idea. They aren't terribly expensive either. You can own both for about $40. You can use either to work on ALL of the muscles indicated in the 'Stretch' portion of this article. Massage (whether done by a professional or yourself) is a wonderful way to increase circulation/stimulate bloodflow, help flush lactic acid and other toxins out of your muscles, clear tightness/adhesions in your muscles, and reduce the chances of injury. Massage ALL YOU WANT!
If you're looking for a sportsmassage (I recommend one every 2-4 weeks of training AT LEAST), I HIGHLY recommend PSOAS Bodywork. They are a FANTASTIC place for sports massage. If you mention you're a 'Marathon Matt' runner, they'll give you 10% off to boot!