I was wondering if anyone had advice to spare on staying injury-free... I've tried starting running on multiple occasions but often, as soon as I get in a rhythm, get plagued with stress fractures in my lower legs.
I usually start low with single, slow as hell miles but as soon as I start getting stoked it's all downhill. Any advice on how to build up safely? (ie. How often can I start off?)
I started running at age 37 (I was relatively active but I wouldn't say fit), been at it almost two years now and just did my first half marathon. At first when I'd run, I go as far as I can, then wallow in pain for days (weeks the first few times!). Finally I switched to following a plan, and that seemed to help a lot. If felt weird, even annoying, to do such short runs on some days when I felt like I still had gas in the tank, but overall it helped me improve over time without so much pain and agony; steadier improvement at that, rather than peaks and valleys. Still plenty sore sometimes of course, but if it was easy everyone would be doing it. I used a plan I found free online from Hal Higdon, I've also seen them for sale at Runnersworld.com and many other sites, guessing maybe REI has one too.
It is not unusual to jump into too much training right away and sustain an injury. It probably means you enjoy running & want to do more of it! If you don't have a certain race or distance that you're training up to, I'd consider structuring your week with a variety of runs. Many training plans will have you doing some speed work, some hills, and some longer slower runs. I would also suggest looking into complementary exercise that helps build those supportive muscles (surrounding the knees, ankles, and hips).
One common cause of injury is improper fitting footwear. REI has some great expertise in fitting people for running shoes. We'd love to see you in store & help you find a shoe that decreases your chance of injury & helps you run outdoors as much as possible! Here is a link to the outfitting page, where you can schedule a 1:1 session with someone who will analyze your gait & get you set up with a great shoe - https://www.rei.com/outfitting/scheduler.
I agree that shoes can make a world of a difference! I highly recommend going to a local running store to get properly fitted in person. I also recommend getting into a good post run routine of stretching and foam/stick rolling, especially for calves, hamstrings, quads and IT band. Stretching and rolling has had a huge impact on reducing recovery times and generally keeping my legs feeling healthy for runs!
I agree with everything everyone has said so far. I would just add that good form solved a lot of injury troubles for me. This has evolved over time with advice from many sources. Newton running has videos on this - or they used to. And I think "Natural Running" was espoused by New Balance. Both had a lot in common. Posture and foot-strike are at the center of good form. Check it out. I highly recommend it.