With 20 weeks to go until the 2019 Melbourne Marathon CSSM Principal and Osteopath Travis Bateman looks at how to start a running program. Here’s his top tips to get to the start line injury-free. 

You can’t go wrong getting strong

For some people, the goal is to get off the couch!

It seems counterintuitive to suggest, but sometimes the worst thing you can do when starting a running program is to actually go for a run.

We all know that running is a high impact activity. In fact, a typical runner lands with up to three times or more of their body weight. This load puts a lot of pressure of joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles.

Training helps these structures adapt but adaption to training is a slow process and too much load too early can cause injury.

The highest risk of injury generally occurs in the first six weeks of commencing a training program.

This’s why we say: you can’t go wrong getting strong. Doing some simple cross training can be very useful early in a program.  A circuit including some leg strengthening exercises such as calf raises, squats and lunges is a good place to start.  Going for a walk rather than a run, and including some stairs in the route can help not only your aerobic performance but also strengthen the load bearing structures and help to keep you injury-free.

Train smarter to train harder

Excessive and rapid increases in training loads are likely responsible for a large proportion of soft-tissue injuries.  This can happen when you build a training load too quickly at the start of a program or cram in sessions to catch up from lost training days.

Consistent training can protect you from injury – even if you are training more.

Training load might come from time spent training – perceived exertion or changes in the type of training (high impact v low impact).

When building your training, avoid increasing your training load more than 10 per cent in a weekly training cycle.

Train hard – recover even harder

There is a relationship between high training loads and injury but you can train at a high level for a long time without injury.  Getting the balance right of high intensity sessions and easy recovery sessions that is important.

Recover like a champion.  It may sound surprising but under-recovery can be more of a problem than overtraining.

If you are training hard – train hard.  If you are recovering – recover like a champion and take it easy.  Avoid spending too much time training in the mid-zone for the best results. The mid-zone is too easy to give you improvement in your performance but is too hard to be a recovery.

A recovery run should be just that – slow, easy and low intensity.  Perhaps just go for a walk instead or have an afternoon nap.

Even having multiple recovery days in a row can enhance your training.  Many elite athletes work in a 10 day block.  Seven to eight days of training followed by a recovery block of two to three days.   It is good for your physical as well as mental recovery.

You can’t outrun a bad diet

This is more of a reminder to myself more than anything but it is true – you can’t outrun a bad diet.

Training is great and will give you many benefits to your physical and psychological health.  However, if one of your goals is to reduce your weight or address your blood pressure or other health concern – your diet is key.

Avoid processed food.  Include plenty of protein in your diet, eat a variety of fruit and vegetables and go easy on the carbs.



Iron out the niggles – seek help

When training, a little bit of discomfort is ok.  But when those niggles mean that you are waking up sore the next day, it’s not the time to “see how it goes.”  Early and effective treatment is best to get on top of an injury and minimise the impact on training and performance.  Injury is not  a reason to stop training but it is an indicator that your training needs to be modified.  Talking to your health professional is the best way to train your way out of injury.


Travis Bateman is the Practice Principal at Camberwell Sports & Spinal Medicine.  He is getting off the couch to have a go at the 10 km at this year’s Melbourne Marathon Running Festival in October.