Distance: 6 mi
Miles to go: 1894
Another Take It And Run post from our friends at Runner’s Lounge
This one is, unfortunately, all too painfully close to my heart. It is on the subject of running injuries…
… OK… Look… First of all… get it out of your head that you won’t get hurt while running. The only real way to keep yourself injury free is to sit on the couch and eat bon bons… But we all know what that leads to. If you run and especially if you run hard and challenge yourself, you WILL get hurt from time to time. Whether it’s something insignificant like dust in your eye or something major like getting hit by a bus… run long enough and it will happen.
And I DO NOT want a bunch of “well… I haven’t gotten hurt” comments. I would add one word to the end of them… “yet”… And you had better be knocking on wood as you click the Send button on that comment as well. I will not be responsible for you cursing yourself by bragging about your lack of injuries.
Look… life causes injuries. Especially if you “LIVE” it by challenging yourself and pushing your limits. You can’t completely avoid injuries if you lead an active lifestyle. Running is more about minimizing the impact of present and future injuries and learning how to accept and deal with them as they come.
To that end, here are some pearls of wisdom I have picked up over the last year since getting back into running full time:
- Injuries are the running gods’ way of telling you to take a break or cross train. Most injuries happen because we are tired, fatigued or otherwise stressed and therefore not paying full attention to what we are doing.
- Invest in GOOD equipment. Shoes, socks, skin coverings, sunglasses, sunblock, etc. and keep that equipment in good repair. Shoes break down slowly over time and as they do, your knees will start to complain.
- Things like trail shoes, headlamps for running at night, reflective clothing and fuel belts may seem like overkill, but the good ones are purpose built tools that will keep you safer inside and out. Yes, they are worth it.
Before you get hurt:
- LISTEN TO YOUR BODY!! Don’t get the runner stupids. If you feel bad, stop. In short, it’s better to live to fight another day…
- HYDRATE… nuff said…
- Balance running with something else. Light weight training, yoga, mountain biking, etc. Efficient running makes use of the big muscles in your legs and that’s pretty much it. If you don’t work out the rest of your body it atrophies, making you more susceptible to injuries.
- Run at least occasionally with a partner if you can. I have had people I run with notice that I was limping or seemed to be tensing my upper body, etc. but I didn’t notice. They can also point out that you are faster or slower , etc. Sometimes when you do the same thing over and over again alone you don’t realize you are falling into habits.
- Develop an eating strategy. For me, I need to run hungry. I can’t eat and then immediately run. I get sick. And when I’m paying more attention to my upset tummy than I am the trail, I’m vulnerable.
- Break your routine. Run different routes and different places. It makes you pay more attention to the road. Both times I twisted my ankle last year it was on a VERY familiar stretch of trail that I assumed I knew every rock on. So I was daydreaming and found a new one and rolled my ankle on it.
When you do get hurt (and you will):
- Relax. You will be fine. There is nothing you can do about it now anyway. Remember RICE for the first 24 hours. It will probably be at least that long until you can get in to see a doc anyway… Unless you’re already in the ambulance heading that way…
- An injury will “HEAL” in 2 weeks to 2 months (depending on what it is). My sports doc says that a good rule of thumb, however is to plan for about 2 weeks of RECOVERY for every week you had to take off to heal. In my most recent injury, it took 4 MONTHS to heal. So, realistically, if I follow his advice it should take me another 8 months to get back to pre-injury fitness. That may sound unreasonable, but it’s the safe bet.
- Push too hard to recover and you WILL re-injure yourself. Take your time and you will be stronger.
Finally, here are things I do now that I never did before that I think really help.
- Stretching- I stretch cold and easy on my off days and light AFTER I warm up or as I warm down. I found that, for me, stretching before I run is a bad formula. I inevitably pulled something.
- Warm up- It is not uncommon for me to run a 5K before I run a 5K, just to warm up. Contrary to what you may think, I find that not only am I not tired, I run better AND faster!
- Cool down- walk, drink, walk some more and enjoy the high.
- Days off- indulge yourself. Enjoy them.
- Missed training days- LET THEM GO! No you can’t make it up tomorrow. No, it’s not going to ruin your training. Just pretend like you did your run and move on. Trying to make up for it starts you on a spiral of “catch up, get tired, miss a day… etc.” that makes you more susceptible to injury.
- Run for the right reasons- Running is supposed to RELIEVE stress, not add to it. If you are constantly pushing for faster times and more miles, you will just be miserable and frustrated… which leads to… you guessed it… more injuries.
- Forget about running every once in a while- Have a cold one or a big chocolate chip cookie with NO GUILT. Go flop on the grass at the park and refuse to run. The extra day to recover every once in a great while will HELP… not hurt… and besides… who doesn’t want to flop on the grass at the park and eat a gigantic chocolate chip cookie… huh, Amy…?