Tuesday, July 7, 2015
8 Tips for Running Injury Free
For many of us the running season is in full swing. Or, at least, the training season has begun. Woo hoo!
But with running season comes the constant plague shadowing every athlete (whether professional or not): injury. I know a lot of runners who have been sidelined with injury – including my myself and my hubby, Handsome Jack.
Staying injury free is even more important if you have complicating conditions like diabetes, osteoporosis, or arthritis. Running injuries can lead to chronic pain and, potentially, even surgery. Just ask Handsome Jack, and his 4 knee surgeries,ugh.
So before we get neck deep in long runs and foam rollers I thought I'd share some tips on staying injury free. I’ve picked these up over the years and they help me. Keep in mind I’m not a doctor or health professional. I’m just your average fitness fanatic. Nothing here is meant to treat or cure pain or injury. Now, that being said, let’s dive into my 8 Tips For Running Injury Free:
1. Build slowly – I picked this tip up from the knowledgeable folks over at Runners World. If your aiming for a long race train by slowly increasing your mileage over several weeks. This allows your body to adjust to the pounding and helps you stay injury free.
2. Rest – yes you. You need to rest. And often. Take rest days just as seriously as any other training day. Your body needs time to heal. Activity, especially intense athletic training – causes tiny tears to form in your muscles. Your body needs rest in order to heal those tears. My stress fracture occurred because I didn’t allow myself enough rest. And if you don’t know, stress fractures are nasty little things you don't want. Don’t be like me – get your rest!
3. Cross train – Which, for most runners, cross training is a bad word. But it’s an absolute must. Early on in our running Handsome Jack suffered from ITB problems. The doctor told him the ITB problems were caused by an imbalance in his leg muscles. Essentially, his running muscles were too strong and his other leg muscles weren’t strong enough. He spent weeks in Physical Therapy building up a more balanced leg. Now we take cross training seriously and he’s been ITB pain free for years.
4. Don’t wait too long to see a doctor – Now, if you’re like me and generally healthy you probably don’t see a doctor on a regular basis. But if you are an athlete (which, as a runner – regardless of size, speed, or finishing time - you totally are) you should take your body seriously. If you are feeling persistent pain don’t ignore it. Go to the doctor sooner rather than later. Delaying could make your pain worse. Seeing your doctor early gives you the opportunity to adjust to avoid being sidelined. If the doctor order physical therapy take the therapy. Your body is the machine you use to live, work, and play. Don’t ignore the signals it’s sending or you could be sidelined for a long, frustrating recovery, and no one wants that. Worst case scenario you could find yourself suffering in a Zimmer persona malfunction issue, for example. This is a knee replacement device indicated for patients with severe knee pain. Unfortunately the device has been recalled due to a piece causing complications and has even sent patients back in for revision surgery. So please make sure you pay attention to your pain!
5. Take walk breaks when needed – When I first started running I thought I wasn’t a real runner if I took walk breaks. But the concept is ridiculous. If I’m running I’m a runner. I may not look like a runner or be as fast as another runner but I’m out there which means I’m a runner. Don’t be afraid to take walk breaks. I jammed my knee during a hiking trip two summers ago and it flares up and gets swollen from time to time (especially on long runs). I’ve had it looked at and there is no visible damage in there – so I returned to my running routine. But I listen to my knee. When it tells me to walk I walk. And you know what? I haven’t missed a race yet.
6. Eat to train – this is a big one. Eating is important to your overall health but its especially important for an athlete. Make sure you’re getting enough protein, fat, and carbs in your meals to provide your body with the fuel it needs to heal.
7. Ice and stretch – When I was in school I used to see the track kids walking out of the athletic training facility wrapped in bags of ice. Their shins, their knees, some hips and even feet would be wrapped in ice. Ice helps reduce inflammation after a workout. Use it. Some runners swear by ice baths. I haven’t tried that yet. However, I do ice my knees when they hurt and it’s a huge help. Also, stretch. Always always stretch. Now, there is debate about whether or not one should stretch before or after a workout. I don’t care. Just be sure you do. I’ve always heard long, flexible muscles are better and produce better results. Who knows if it’s true. But what I do know is that I always feel better after I stretch.
8. Don’t give up – if you are running with injuries or coming back from an injury it can feel horrible. Everything is hard on the way back to where you were. I get it. I feel ya bro. But don’t give up. Keep pushing forward. Even when you are sore and stiff. The best remedy to that soreness is working your muscles and flushing all that lactic acid out of there. Keep moving and you’ll not only prevent injuries but bounce back faster after an injury.
Those eight things have worked to keep me running for more than seven years. What works for you?