We, runners, are an interesting lot. We often do not know when to stop. Every day, we go out and run. We follow our training plans blindly, regardless of how we feel that day. If the plan tells us to do a 5 mile tempo run, we go out and do it. 50 mile week even when something is bothering us, sure. We often ignore our body. Little niggle here and there, little soreness here or there, it is all normal, right? We shrug it off and keep running. And then it happens. The I word – the Injury.
It is not uncommon to log onto any running forum, and see dozens of posts from people saying how they signed up for this race and that race, but they are injured again. They write about how they just got back from an injury, and now they are hurt again. There is a common thread through all this, and that is, we as runners tend to do same thing over and over again. Why are we always hurt? Why is it always that right leg? Why me? Again, we toss this into the wind as life happens, and I will get better soon. Eventually, that soon won’t be soon enough.
Here are easy 3 steps to stop the vicious cycle, how to stay healthy and stay running.
1. Stop and Listen
Learn to listen to your body. Some niggles and pains are certainly normal, but stay conscious of them. Are they getting better or worse? Are you experiencing sharp pain? It is better to be safe than sorry. Evaluate the pain. Seek advice of your medical professional or fellow runners. If you feel the tightness, do not go out and run fast. If you feel tired, maybe take a day off. It might take a bit to get this right, but it is never too late to start. It is ok to say no to a workout, if that means you get to run another day pain free. Stop and listen. Your body is usually right.
2. Reevaluate and correct
Now that you have identified that something is bothering you, what will you do about it? Ignore it and keep running? It is very important to know the cause of your injury. This is a time for reflection and a time to really think hard why you are injured. It didn’t just happen. Especially, if it keeps reoccurring. Different gadgets and shoes are usually not the answer to most problems. Think about your body’s balance and how you can strengthen major muscle groups that are normally weak in runners, namely glutes and hips. Again, seek the advice of others that have done this before you. Reevaluate what you have been doing and correct it. Stop making same mistakes over and over again.
3. Ease back
Starting to feel better? Injury is still there but not completely gone? Time to sign up for that next race? Getting back into the swing of things is always hard. We are eager to just jump back in, and pick up where we left of prior to that injury. And while some are ok to do that, others will end up right back where they started – on the sofa. Take it easy. Do some short runs to test your body. If you feel anything, stop. Take another day off. Construct a 3-4 week a “get back into running” plan. Only once you feel ready, should you even start thinking about that next race. This all may sound very strict, but it is necessary and you won’t regret it later. Think about your long term goals, and your running career, rather than the short term “get-me-to-the-next-race” mentality.
Finding the information we need to succeed is right at our fingertips. Social media, forums, and accessibility to other runners, doctors, and athletes via those means makes it almost too easy for us to obtain all the information we need. There is no excuse. Do not spend your days on the couch watching others run. Do not be afraid to reach out and seek advice on anything, from nutrition to injury prevention. Never stop learning. Your body will thank you for it.
Being in tune with our body, listening to our body is one of the most important things we as runners need to master. Once we are there we will know when to stop, when to ease back, and most importantly it will allow us to run injury free for many years to come.
Go forth and run.