It’s a new year! You have gathered new energy and motivation to tackle the year ahead. And on your New Year’s resolution list, you might have written down a running goal or a specific race. The problem? Too often, runners begin a new training program and a strain in the knee or a pain in the heel occurs within the first weeks. So what do runners do? They often start panicking and, quite frequently, they will keep on running, while ensuring to take enough ibuprofen. Of course, this is not a solution – but this will only worsen the injury. Injury prevention is a very important topic – especially if you are training for longer distances, are new to running or want to add on mileage for your next race. As a result, we have decided to dig deeper into the topic by interviewing elite-runner and running coach Mads Tærsbøl. Mads has a personal record of 13.55 min on the 5000m distance and 3.45 min on the 1500m. He has been selected for Europeans Cross Country races, E-cups and more. Besides being crazy fast, Mads is well acquainted with injuries, since he has had quite a lot over the last years. To name a few: plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendon injury and runners knee have caused Mads quite some time apart from athletics. When he is not running, Mads studies Exercise and Sports Science. He can, therefore, be considered quite the expert when it comes to athletics, training, and injuries. We asked him a few questions to give you the best guidance on how to avoid injuries in the future.

What are typical mistakes that runners tend to do?

“Usually, runners tend to get injured when they increase their weekly mileage too fast, they are running fast on all their training sessions and, or they are too eager to reach their running goals, so they will start off too fast. For that reason, runners should be careful with the fact that endurance is developed much faster than their ligaments, joints, bones, and tendons.” Besides not being careful with adding mileage to your training, a wrong pair of shoes can also be a reason why you keep getting injured. Mads suggests a running-test in order to analyze your foot type, your running style and how you land. Also, having multiple shoes to interchange between training sessions will likely lower the risk of injuries. Another factor that can cause injuries is the lack of variation in your training. This means that you should try to change your running pace every now and then, and also alternate the surface you are running on.

How can you prevent injuries?

“First of all, runners should include strength training into their programs at least twice a week, in order to build muscles and strengthen the whole body. Another great advice would be to incorporate hill sprints into their training and to take one or two days completely off from running each week. Make sure to warm up before each run and to cool down after. Especially when it’s cold, it’s important to slowly warm up the body before your run.” Indeed, runners should try to vary their training by running in the woods, on hard and soft surfaces, on small paths and more. This is lowering the risk of injuries because the body and joints are strengthened. Attention should also be concentrated on your diet and hydration. Mads suggest you should eat balanced and vary between protein, fats, and carbohydrates. You should also make sure to be hydrated before and after your run. Runners who feel pain and are in doubt whether they should go for a run or not should think smart. Focus on a more long-term oriented goal. “Listen to the body. This is really important! Take two or three days off from running when you feel pain or when the body is too exhausted.” It goes without saying that you should take the rest you need and that you should heed your body’s signs, rather than just sticking to the training program. Mads also suggest that you should consider going to a sports therapist once in a while to loosen the body.

Do you have any advice for beginners who want to start running?

“Think long-term! Make a realistic plan instead of rushing into a new training program and get injured right away. Slowly increase your mileage by 5% each week.” While slowly increasing your mileage, you should also pay attention to your running pace.  As a beginner, you might want to start off running most of your runs at a slow pace. For the beginning, a piece of advice from Mads would be to walk 1 min then jog 1 min and so on. We hope that you consider this advice in the future and wish you all the best for your training! :)