This Mistake Is the (Most) Common Cause of Running Injuries

Man running

Did you know that 30-70% of recreational and competitive runners sustain an injury during any 1-year period?(1) However, not many runners are aware of what puts them at risk.

When asked about the main cause of running injuries, most runners will reply:

  • Not stretching
  • No warm-up or cool-down
  • The wrong shoes…

What do you think? A lot of time and money is spent on researching the risk factors that might be the source of problems for so many runners.

Woman before a run

Running injury risk factors

Stretching does not help prevent problems and neither does wearing the “perfect” running shoes.(2) At least, according to the latest research.

However, many studies to date do mention a common mistake that is likely putting runners at a considerably higher risk of getting hurt.

And luckily, there is something you can do about it. (Hint: It’s free and easy!)

So, what is the mistake that puts so many runners at risk hurting themselves?

The simple mistake that increases runners’ risk of injury

For decades, training load – specifically excessive mileage – has been suspected as one of the causes of running injuries, especially among inexperienced runners.

In other words, doing “too much, too soon” might get you hurt.

Woman exhausted by a run

Sports scientists are still trying to fully understand the complex relationship between training load and running problems.(3,4)  And even if there is no clear consensus to date, the available information supports the idea that you can and should do something about it.

What can you do about it?

Have you heard of the “10% rule”? This common rule of thumb suggests that you shouldn’t increase your weekly mileage by more than 10% each week.(5) A different study suggested that going up to 23% more mileage still won’t increase injury risk in beginner runners. The complexity of the factors in play and the lack of specific research makes it impossible to say exactly how you should increase your mileage. While researchers focus on determining the details, do something to reduce your risk of injuries…

Instead of following a strict rule, consider this advice:

  • Track your mileage: if you’re not already tracking your weekly mileage start right away. A free running app like the Runtastic app makes it easy by delivering your weekly stats via email.
  • Don’t increase the mileage too soon: be patient, stick to a “humble” increase in mileage (10% if you want to be really cautious), especially if you are a beginning runner without much experience in monitoring intensity and load on your body.
  • Watch out for signs of stress: increased irritability, persistent fatigue, problems falling asleep? All of this and many more could be signs of overtraining – in other words, putting too much stress on your body. Often runners will ignore other work and life stress and not count it as additional stressors for their runs. Whatever you are dealing with in your life has an effect on your body’s recovery. So reduce your training at stressful times and focus on active recovery.

Man using a running app

Takeaway

Possibly the most common mistake runners make is increasing their training load before they are ready. Whether it’s doing “too much, too soon” or just training too hard on days when you are stressed in your daily life, monitor your training load and find a balance between training and stress. This can help reduce the risk of injuries.

Instead of pushing too hard, why not go the extra mile in injury prevention? Check out the 5-point plan that can help you avoid injuries in your next running season.

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Hana Medvesek With a background in physical therapy, Hana strongly believes that movement is medicine. She likes to run, lift weights, and try out simple, healthy recipes. View all posts by Hana Medvesek »