1) DURABILITY- A long standing history or running- from middle school, through high school and through adulthood... the development of "durability" occurs over time and as a result the athlete is injury resistant.
2) Optimal or close to optimal training schedule- an athlete needs to make and effort to develop their training schedule with adequate time given for adaptation (recovery) between hard or long sessions and also a planned time of the year when reduced running volume (intensity, frequency and duration all decreased) is a part of their training week. Frequently, as a health-care provider in taking a patient's history I can determine exactly why an injury occurred simply because of how and athlete trains. The "Terrible Too's" (Too much, Too fast, Too soon, Too hard e etc) is the leading cause of most athlete's ailments.
3) Mechanics... how one moves while they run deemed, "Biomechanics" is also a leading cause of acute (short term) and especially chronic (recurring or long standing) injury. An example of this is with a person who has developed an Achilles tendonopathy (tendonitis or 'osis)- most of time, based on my assessments of literally thousands of runners, this is not due to just one movement where the athlete remembers exactly when it happened but rather, thousands of repetitions of doing the same thing over and over and the achilles taking the lions share of the trauma leading to it's injury.
What can we do as athletes to improve our bodies resilience to running related trauma and what can we do to make running not only pain free, which it SHOULD BE, but enjoyable and as natural an activity as is breathing air in and out of our lungs or walking?
#1- Address your limiters- is it a range of motion problem in your hips, your ankles or your lower back that is contributing to muscle tightness or a weakness? Is it a stability problem/issue that needs to be addressed? Is it a turnover/stride rate problem in that your stride rate is too low contributing to excessive stress and strain on tissues that cannot deal with it? I assess athletes on a daily basis for limiters such as this and in my opinion their is not better way to determine your limiters than to have an objective assessment performed by a qualified health-care professional. If you are "in tune" with what limits you I suggest you check out www.Prehab.TV and get to work on the "Learn to Run Program" Phase 1. In this program you will find several helpful hints on how to implement running drills into your training program and which drills to incorporate which will improve how you are moving while running and therefore decreasing trauma on the body while running and improving running efficiency... all of that for the cost of one personal training session!
#2- GRADUALLY introduce more running into your plan after you have absolutely mastered running "well." Many want to strap on their $150 running shoes and head out the door with little regard to how they move. As mentioned, how we move has a direct cause and effect relationship on the soft tissues and joints of our body. If we move less than optimally we will place these structures under too much stress/strain and potentially cause injury. Also, if we do not gradually develop our body's durability soft tissue and joint structures break down and increased risk of prolonged injury is common. Another factor in most runners training schedule is that they want to include speed work when they are not ready to do so. "Speed" work has many forms and definitions to be sure but most do not realize that a little speed work goes a long way and one need not absolutely crush themselves on every speed session in order to make gains. Begin with performing "strides" or short duration/distance intervals (15seconds/ 50-100meters) that are performed "fast" but not working "hard." Focus on your form... being smooth and efficient, breathing effectively through the diaphragm and relaxing your shoulders and arms. When you first begin these try running 4 or 5 of these performed at the end of 3 runs in one week. Gradually, an athlete can then begin to inject longer, sustained efforts into their training program but not until their body has undergone adequate adaptation to the previous stress.
In closing, if you want to run and have fun, PLEASE DO! Enjoy every second of it. However, if you want to run AT YOUR BEST, a bit of thought has to go into the preparation of your body. Be well and as always, let me know if you have any questions.
In future blogs I assure you that I will address training strategies for runners, triathletes, cyclists and the like but for now, this article is more food for thought.