The worst thing that can happen to any runner is not being able to run or perform optimally due to an injury. It is already difficult enough for runners to schedule in rest/off days on a regular basis. Being out of the game for 1-3months (depending on the severity of the injury) can be pretty depressing. You wouldn’t want to go near a runner who has been deprived of their daily dose of adrenaline and endorphins.
We have already established in the previous post (To Rest or Not to Rest?) that we all need our rest days, but there are many other things that one can take note of to prevent short/long-term injury and having to sit out of the game.
1. Work the CORE
Runners tend to focus most of their time on running and neglect one essential part of their training that would complete the whole picture – core work and strength training.
PLANK it out.
The core is the center of the body which holds everything in place and it includes all the muscles which help you to maintain posture. These muscles are found on the abdomen, back and around your hips. A strong core would mean that you are more likely to hold proper running form for a longer period of time. This is especially useful when it comes to distance running. Also, by strengthening these muscles, weight stress from the upper body on the legs can be evenly distributed and reduced. This will then reduce the risk of injury, allowing you to run longer and harder.
It may be time consuming but it is a great investment that would ultimately improve your running.c
There are other benefits of working your core.
……but only after you’re done with running. Stretching after your run allows you to recover quickly. It relieves muscle tension, improves range of motion and flexibility, ultimately making your body more efficient for running.
Choose to focus on stretching after your workout but if you insist on stretching before, make sure you warm up your muscles by brisk walking or jogging for at least 10 minutes. I prefer to do dynamic stretching (instead of static stretching) which is controlled movement to target a few muscles.
I never knew that stretching cold muscles just before running could do more harm than good. Back in high school, we were always taught to stretch before you start doing any form of sport/activity. I always wondered why whenever I stretched before my run that my muscles would feel extra stiff, almost unmovable. I noticed I felt better on days when I forget to stretch. Eventually I stopped stretching altogether.
Only a few years later did I come across an article on how static stretching (instead of dynamic stretching) could lead to injury. I was thrilled when I found out because I experienced it on my own without being blinded by biasness if I had known this fact beforehand.
This brings me to my next point……
……to your body. Pay attention to it. If something is up, attend to it. The common tell-tale signs are fatigue, soreness, aches and pains among other feelings that are not “normal” to you. Nobody knows your body better than you do.
A trip to the doctors and a CT scan at a premium was what it took to finally convince me of my aching knee. I had to ice my inflamed knee after every run and do light physiotherapy.
You can consider creating your own unique training log. Detailing your goals, route, distance, time, how you feel etc. This will help you to better visualise your workouts and also to pin point the root cause of your aches/pains/soreness. I started my own training log this year and it has helped me so much especially when it comes to scheduling rest days.
4. Mix it up
……by cross-training. Please, don’t be monotonous. Mix up your workouts by doing other sports just as you would eat from a wide range of foods to obtain all your nutrients.
I like to rock climb, swim, hike and cycle. There are so many other forms of sports out there waiting for you to explore. Don’t just stick to running.
Climbing with CANDY nails.
THAT feeling when you reach the top……
Never gets old.
When we get bored indoors, we head out!
Bukit Tabur with church friends.
Do or die. Nothing in between.
And when we’re bored of being on land……
On wheels. Probably the worst bike ever.
Not just for show, we DID go cycling.
After a great workout……
5. The shoe has got to fit
With a plethora of shoes out in the market, it is difficult to narrow down which is the best for you. It is almost impossible to even try them all. My only advice is – Do not hop blindly into the bandwagon of fashionable and trendy footwear.
Buy shoes that suit the way you run and one that fits the anatomy of your foot. It is recommended that you change your shoes after logging in about 1000+KM. My shoes would usually last me for about a year before it begins to bald (which is usually after 1000+KM).
Get an expert or a friend to check on your running form. The wrong form with the right shoe could cause just as much trouble down the road.
Last but definitely not least,
6. Never TOO much, never TOO soon
Don’t be the superhero when it comes to running. Going too fast and doing too much in a short period of time is usually the ultimate cause of injury. You may feel okay but your body needs time to rest and adapt. You can follow the 10 percent rule which is slowly increasing your mileage by 10 percent each week.
Gone were the days when I hammered the streets even when I wasn’t feeling too good. These days I don’t follow any rule. I run more on days when I feel pumped and run less when I’m tired. Again, listen to your body. I’ve learned (the hard way) to balance running with strength training. It is not just about getting your workout done and over with, it is about putting in QUALITY workouts that count.
I am still in the process of learning and discovering new things. I have yet to master all of the above.
In the past year, I have made several changes by tuning in to my own body and paying a lot more attention to it. I have noticed that I grew stronger, slightly fitter and am now able to attain far reaching goals that once seemed impossible.
How do you ward off injury?
Rest well and then, RUN!