Distance Running Injuries And Errors

In distance running, injuries are often regarded as a way of life just like in any other sports. Some pundits even regarded them as medals or trophies telling everyone that one is a bona fide member of that larger, virtual fraternity of athletes around the world.

Surveys, however, indicated that 60% of running injuries were caused by training errors.

Training errors do not mean they are caused by the wrong types of training, but by rapid changes in training or the intensity levels of training.

While on a training run, the leg bones, the joints and the muscles are stressed. They are already damaged, and must have a recovery period during which the body will repair the damage. However, if the training run continues, there is never sufficient recovery, and injury occurs.

It is the same story if the mileage is suddenly increased. The body is not properly prepared for the higher level of stress. The bones, muscles, tendons and the ligaments are only as strong as its present training level. It does not have the sudden extra strength for the new increased intensity level.

On the other hand, if there are adequate rests, there is “super-compensation”. With “super-compensation” the body and the related body parts react to the stress by becoming stronger. By then, they can now absorb greater stress and shocks.


The solution is careful planning of the training program. Training should not be wishy-washy; every part should be planned including rest days. Finally, the plan should be followed to the letter.

Any planned increases in mileage should never be greater than 10% a week. There should be a full rest day once a week or every other week. Easy days (light training) are recommended every three days or so.

The principle is to start working on the current level of mileage without injury. Then, a slow progression is made up to the intended mileage level. This is the key to improved performance.

Other training errors

One bad error is to abruptly add high-intensity training. It is like doing months of steady mileage training and then deciding to include fast anaerobic interval sessions. The body is not trained yet to cope with fast-paced running. The muscles tire fast and there is extra stress on the bones and joints.

Then, there is the error of changing running surfaces. If one trains on high-impact surfaces such as roads, the body naturally adapts. The same case is true in training on soft terrains.

However, if one trains on hard surfaces regularly and then abruptly changes into soft practice surface (or vice-versa), problems may happen because of the sudden different stress on the muscles.

Another very bad training error is doing compound changes fast. An example would be a runner doing steady training on the road for a season and then switches to fast training on a track with spikes. There are three sudden changes done here: the intensity, the surface, and the shoes.

A sudden change in the mechanics (caused by the shoes) and the higher impact surface (soft country terrains to the tracks) and speed require use of different muscles. This is often too much for the athlete’s body.

However, if you include some speed training on the track (and in spikes) throughout the whole training year, injury risks are reduced when you increase intensities for track racing.

Athletes usually make the mistake of planning high-quality running sessions, but make up the ‘steady runs’ element of their training as they go along. The rule is to plan the training in every detail. Changes are to be carefully incorporated slowly.

What every athlete (and coaches, of course) must keep in mind is that protracted high-intensity training, prolonged high volumes of training, and any kind of rapid change in the training is a grave training error.

This is a crucial rule to understand, and this is true in any kind of sports, distance running included.

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