Dodging tomorrow’s disaster starts today
The concept of “bulletproofing” is really about avoiding anything that can ruin the consistency of your training and in turn, sabotage your goals.
When it comes to running, “bulletproofing” is avoiding injury, illness and anything else that can cause an extended disruption. Let’s go through the most common things that will stop your training and come up with a plan to offset or avoid it.
By far the most common cause of injury can be traced back to issues with the training program. Some training programs ramp up too quickly while others include sessions that create focal overload and injury (like adding in lots of hill sessions and overloading the Achilles tendon).
To help control your training program, we need to establish a few key points.
Firstly, the 10% rule is absolute bollocks. It’s a loose concept that they tried to convert into a mathematical equation and it just doesn’t work.
Second, maintaining the same training program every week isn’t necessarily going to prevent injury but it will result in less performance gains each week.
Here’s our recommended approaches to bulletproof your training program – ranked from most effective to least effective:
- Hire an experienced and qualified running coach – provided the coach is in tune with your needs and your response to training, this will give you the best chance of noticeable improvement while avoiding disruptions.
- Document your program and have it scrutinised – this can be hit and miss depending on the quality of the scrutiny but it forces you to plan ahead and have another set of eyes to spot any obvious issues.
- Document your program – while you miss out on external input, at least you’ve gone to the effort of writing it down which can often help you see any gross errors.
- Wing it (not recommended) – just walk out the door and plan your session as you’re lacing up your shoes. While it may work for very experienced runners, it generally ends poorly for anyone with less than a decade of training behind them.
(Note: in this category, we generally exclude any sessions that don’t have a direct contribution to your running performance… like your Wednesday night ballroom dancing class).
Strength training tends to be the most underestimated component of a runner’s weekly training. Not only does it improve performance, it’s also a huge factor in minimising injury risk and preventing other disruptions. A well designed strength program will see improvements in maximum pace and running endurance as well as a reduction in the risk of almost every running injury!
Cross training and recovery sessions are also key ingredients in maintaining running consistency, particularly for higher volume runners. Cross training can improve your running conditioning without the need for extra kilometres and recovery sessions can speed up and optimise how your body prepares for the next running session. Both of these types of training allow you to fit more training into your week while reducing the risk of overtraining.
Footwear tends to cause injury for two main reasons: using old shoes or using the wrong shoes.
Old shoes is a fairly straightforward one – shoes that have lost their spring/cushioning or their overall shape will create additional loading on other structures like the ankle joints and plantarfascia, which often leads to overload injuries.
Using the wrong shoe is a little bit more complex. It might be that the shoes you’ve chosen aren’t designed for the purpose – using spikes or carbon plated shoes is great for speed sessions but running every session in them doesn’t go so well. You can also have a mismatch in your preferred feel – you may prefer a soft plush shoe or a firm responsive shoe. Any deviation from that can change your running technique, potentially causing injury.
Seems like an odd thing to have on a running injury prevention list but it’s definitely something that can cause a disruption in training. You’ll be more susceptible to illness if you’re constantly fatigued and/or have poor nutrition so focus on those two factors to minimise the chance of illness-related disruption.
Gremlins are the last item on our list for good reason. These are the little whoopsies and mishaps that get you when you least expect it. It’s the things that we put down to bad luck rather than bad planning.
Even if you had the world’s greatest injury prevention measures in place, you’re still going to roll an ankle. Gremlins are those injuries that you can’t prevent no matter what you do…but just in case, don’t run on Friday 13th.
Pete has over 20 years experience as a Physiotherapist and specialises in running biomechanics and complex injuries. He believes that you must identify and fix the underlying cause of an injury, to recover faster, prevent recurrences and improve performance.