Running and injury seem to go hand in hand for most people. Some people are hurt often and others rarely, but almost everyone misses training or needs to cut back on training due to injury. Injuries are an issue with all sports but are particularly significant in running, because it is a conditioning sport not a skill sport. Every day you don’t train you start to lose a little of what you have worked so hard to gain. This makes deciding how to handle injuries particularly vexing for runners. If you back off you might get better, but you will also lose fitness. If you don’t back off the injury may still go away, but you could also end up more seriously injured which will cause you to miss even more time. There are lots of common running injuries and tons of information about them so I won’t go into specific injuries. Instead I would like to suggest some things that will minimize your chances of getting injured in the first place.
Don’t Increase Volume or Intensity Too Fast
There is no hard and fast definition of too fast. New runners need to take it slower as do injury prone runners. Everyone is tempted by short cuts and patience isn’t a virtue because it is easy. If you aren’t sure run your plan past a trusted training partner or look into hiring a coach.
Use a Foam Roller and Ice Regularly
Foam rollers are cheap and ice is free so they should both be a regular part of your post run routine. Ice is good for reducing inflammation, which all runners have and a foam roller is great for working sore muscles yourself. Better than an ice bag is immersion in cold water. A backyard pool is perfect during Arizona’s winter but not so perfect in most of the country.
Schedule a Massage
Some things you can do yourself and others you can’t. If you are training more than 50 miles/week a monthly massage is worth the time and money. Look for a therapist who works with athletes and let them know what you want them to work on. Sports massage will be painful at times, but the hurt is oh so worth it.
Take the long View with Training
To get the best out of yourself you need to be able to train consistently. The bigger your running base the better your results will be. Persistence is importance in running but don’t mistake stubbornness with persistence, which can prevent you from backing off when it is obvious you need to back off. Nobody cares how perfect your log is especially if you don’t make it to the starting line to talk about how well your training went. Take the pro’s approach and be willing to modify your plans.
Three Days Off
When you encounter a new pain you need to decide whether or not to run through it. A good rule of thumb is don’t ignore pains that get worse as your run continues. If the pain is significant or hinders your gait I usually recommend three days off. Three days is enough time for little stuff to clear up and not enough time missed to greatly affect training. If after three days off you still have pain then it is probably time for professional assistance.
Most runners don’t love strength training, but that isn’t a good reason to ignore it. Running creates imbalances that strength training can fix. Spending 20 minutes on strength training three times per week is enough for most people. Coach Jay Johnson offers a variety of routines that work the muscles runners need to address.
A lot of achieving your best performance is staying healthy for long periods. If you train with a long view and address injuries immediately you’ll be injured less and run faster.
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