I see a surprisingly large number of runners injured as they increase training to run a marathon or half-marathon. Or they might be overweight people trying to lose a few pounds in one of those extreme weight-loss competitions. They might even be people preparing for beach season.

The underlying factor in their injuries almost always involves trying to reach a fitness or athletic goal too fast and increasing training too quickly. When they ask me what they could do differently to avoid injury next time, I recommend setting realistic goals and increasing their training to achieve those goals slowly.

This tip is easiest to explain for jogging, but the concept can be implemented with almost any form of exercise or training.

Jogger with leg pain shouldn't increase training

For example, if you haven’t jogged in two years, running a 10-K race six weeks from now might be a bad idea. Likewise, if you run 10 or 15 miles per week, you probably won’t be able to safely increase your training to complete a marathon two months from now.

Similarly, people who want to lose weight quickly or get in shape often hire trainers or join boot camps but start far too aggressively. If you haven’t lifted weights in years, doing large numbers of reps and sets many times a week could lead to shoulder or arm injuries.

Also read:
What could cause leg pain in a runner other than a stress fracture?
The role of bone density in stress fractures

Instead of doing too much too soon, you should increase training in a way that doesn’t overly stress your body’s ability to heal and get stronger. If you run 20 miles per week now and want to increase that amount, aim for 22 miles next week. If you want to run a marathon in 12 months, determine the mileage you need to reach. Then use the 10% rule backwards to figure out when you need to start training.

Increasing mileage, frequency of workouts and intensity of workouts can follow the same principle. Increase them a little bit at a time.