Consistent, injury-free training has helped Desiree Davila become one of the best marathoners in the U.S.
Written by: Courtney Baird
If you’re looking for a paradigm of health and consistency in the running world, look no further than Desiree Davila, who runs for Michigan’s Hansons-Brooks Original Distance Project.
With her 2:26:20 PR at the 2010 Bank of America Chicago Marathon, she is now the fourth-fastest female American marathoner in history, behind only Deena Kastor, Joan Benoit Samuelson, and Kara Goucher.
Her PR was the result of steady improvement over many years—the Arizona State University alum finished the 2007 Boston Marathon with a 2:44:56, then she was fifth in Chicago in 2008 with a 2:31:33, then she was 11th at the IAAF World Marathon Championships in 2009 with a time of 2:27:53, and then she PRed this year in Chicago with her 2:26:20, which was good enough for fourth.
One of the biggest reasons for Davila’s steady rise in the marathon world is her ability to stay healthy—the worst injury she’s dealt with was a metatarsal stress fracture in 2005. That’s saying something, considering she hits 120 miles a week at the top end of her training cycles.
And luckily for us, she’s offered to give us some tips on how to stay injury free.
“I guess the biggest thing is to take your easy days easy,” Davila said. “They’re built into your schedule as recovery days, so if you go hammer those, you just never let your body recover.”
Davila also stays on top of any aches and pains that are bothering her.
“If I think it’s more than just soreness or standard fatigue, I definitely back off in my training and make sure it comes around before I keep pushing again,” she said.
She isn’t afraid to take days off, either, and she’s aggressive about her physical therapy if she feels like she has something that could become significant if she neglects it.
In terms of post-race recovery, once she has finished a marathon, she makes sure she takes two weeks completely off. “I take my downtime really seriously,” she said. Then, she’ll take a month to five weeks to build her mileage back up again.
Davila’s also known for switching up her race focus throughout the year—she was eighth at the 2010 World Indoor Championships over 3,000 meters.
That’s quite a feat for someone who spends most of her time training for an event that is fourteen times that distance.
The freezing temperatures of Michigan’s winters might also be playing a part in Davila’s success.
“In the winter, you have to back off a little bit, and this allows you to recover a little more than usual,” she said.
Running on the snow also works her stabilization muscles, adding to her overall strength and ability to stay injury free.
Davila hopes to put her health and consistency to good use this spring, when she will most likely run another marathon.
And look for her on Jan. 14, 2012 in Houston, where she’s set to run the Olympic Trials in the marathon.
Courtney Baird is editor-in-chief of Inside Triathlon magazine and a former Division 1 cross-country and track runner.