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RUNNING Away From Injury: The 5 Commandments

One of the best ways to stay fit is also one of the quickest ways to get injured.

My foot was in a cast for 2 weeks after my first Boston Marathon. Don’t let the smile fool you. 26.2 miles of excruciating pain.

Welcome to my new 5 part series on running injuries. For the next 5 weeks, I’ll devote a weekly post to tips and strategies to keeping yourself running healthy.

I don’t know of any sport more laden with injuries than running. Pick up any running or fitness magazine and you’ll find plenty of reasons to conclude it’s a risky sport.  You probably know someone who’s been laid up due to a running related injury.

Running injuries are blamed on everything from shoes to improper running form to overtraining. You can practice Chi Running, yoga, or go barefoot. Controversy ignites over stretching, ice baths, and ibuprofen.

The beauty of running is its simplicity. All you need are shoes (and even those aren’t absolutely necessary) and the great outdoors. No need for lessons or fancy gear. Lace up and go. As a self proclaimed “gear goddess,” sometimes I have to remind myself that all I need are my legs:)

Personally, I think the increase in running injuries is caused by these 3 factors:

  • More people are running. Because it’s simple and inexpensive, more people are giving it a try without proper fitting shoes or a training plan. Races are abundant and provide accountability and motivation which is attractive to both newbies and veterans.
  • Running is addictive. This is good for fitness but can be bad for the body. People progress rapidly and increase their distance or intensity too fast for their body to adapt properly.
  • The sport is unilateral. You move forward in repetitive motion. Whereas, sports like soccer, basketball, and tennis move your body in all directions.

The 5 Commandments

1)  When you find a brand and model of running shoes that work for you, don’t switch.

A runner in a running store is a like a toddler in a candy store. So many bright colors and cool styles. IGNORE THEM! It is so easy to get sucked into buying the latest styles but if you find a shoe that is comfortable and has kept you injury-free, stick with it.

2)  Increase mileage no more than 10% per week.

This guideline has been around for quite some time. I didn’t follow it when I first starting running and I got injured. Important not because you don’t have the endurance or muscular strength to progress faster. You feel good and know you can do more. BUT DON’T.  You’re forgetting about all of the interconnected fibers in your body. All of those ligaments and soft tissues that support your muscles have been stretched, pulled and pounded in new ways. They desperately need time to adapt gradually.

3)  If any type of pain affects your running gait, STOP immediately.

Running pounds your body so expect twinges of discomfort. Expect exhaustion and muscle soreness. But if the pain causes you to change your running gait, do not keep running. This is the key to nipping injuries in the bud. Much better to stop and nurture the pain now than to run through it and cause a debilitating injury.

4)  Include other fitness activities that have side-to-side motion.

This series will cover a few of my favorite stretches and exercises that are specific to my injury prevention. However, cross training in basketball, soccer, tennis, volleyball, kickboxing, and yoga are excellent choices. Many runners will cross train by cycling, elliptical training, stair climbing, swimming etc.  What do these have in common with running? Your body moves in one motion- forward. While they complement your running, they aren’t the best for preventing injury.

Running causes our bodies to tighten up. Stretching immediately following a run is very difficult. Also why it is so important. Yoga and foam rolling are tops on my list! (See short video on foam rolling here).

5)  Ice is miraculous.

Generally speaking, ice a sore area for 20 minutes twice a day. Ideally, ice before you go to bed or when you can stay stationary. Ice helps with inflammation but can make you stiff so don’t ice right before exercise.

My favorite ice wraps are made by TruFit and available on Amazon.  A bag of frozen peas works well also but tends to sweat with moisture and not stay cold for as long.

Ice baths can do no harm although professionals debate how much they help recovery. I think they help a LOT! They are hard to do but probably not as bad as you imagine. I’ve dropped my tired hiney in tubs of ice water many times and I can’t even stand immersing myself into a cold swimming pool!

Here’s how to do it.

Have bags of ice ready by your bathtub. Sit in the dry tub with a towel around your upper body. Start the cold water and allow the tub to fill up around you. The water will rise over your legs which is the worst part. Just keep hugging the towel:).  Once the water reaches the level you want, shut the water off and pour the bags of ice in around you. You won’t hardly notice the addition of the ice because your body will already be acclimated. Sit for 10 minutes. Your body will feel great when you get out and encase yourself in a warm towel. A great recovery tool that requires a little effort and a lot of courage.

Topicals like Bengay or Icy Hot are ok in a pinch or for limited use in a race but are not a replacement for ice. Here are some new topicals on the market as shown in Runner’s World magazine. Please comment if you’ve tried any of them.

Bizarre? I’d say so!

For those with deep pockets and don’t mind looking like an astronaut on your couch, invest in a pump system to aid in recovery from Recovery Pump. Air compression helps improve circulation for a faster recovery. I know someone who uses one of these systems and said it’s very effective. Around $1100.

Don’t let a running injury derail you. Simply back off as needed and resume slowly. “No pain, no gain” does not apply to injuries.

I am a true sinner when it comes to running. I had to lay off running for nearly 2 years because I pushed through pain that I shouldn’t have. Learn when to push and when to back off. I’ll be the first to say get out there if you’re just sore or tired.  But if you’re limping or favoring a leg, STOP before it’s too late.

Ran my first Chicago Marathon with a stress fracture in my left hip.

My first Boston qualifying marathon in Arizona with serious IT band issues. Limped off the course when finished.

Speedwork most likely to cause or aggravate injury. Use caution!

Exhaustion isn’t injury. A little rest and fuel is all that’s needed.

Stay tuned weekly for my next Running Away From Injury series post on my favorite stretches for runners.

"Turn a setback into a comeback."

 

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