Injury. I know a thing or two about this. I wish I didn’t. I wish I was writing this having completely avoided this frustrating issue, but I’m not. Thus, why I’m able to give you some advice. This is a picture of me after knee surgery last August. I had struggled with knee issues all summer and was finally told I needed surgery to remove a plica tissue. Ugh. Are you serious right now? Oh, and “I hate running.” That’s basically what my Dr. told me. Boo. So, how do we avoid this pesky little thing called injury? I don’t know that there is a tried and true answer. However, there are some tips that can help. Looking back, I wish I had taken each of these more seriously. Who knows, maybe I would have avoided surgery.
1. Foam roll Foam roll Foam roll. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the foam roller should have a happy permanent spot on your living room floor. When my husband and I were both training for our marathon this past March, we would meet on the floor EVERY night to stretch and foam roll. We have 3 kids, we take any kind of date we can get. During those months, we poured our hearts out over tight psoas muscles and sore hamstrings.
I don’t want to get too technical but self myofascial release is the way to go. Aren’t you impressed with my vocab? Don’t be. You can google anything. Check out the official definition here. This is actually something I’ve been studying a lot about and learning as I study to get my personal trainer certification. Also, it’s something I have done A LOT of.
In laymen’s terms, you are working out knots in your muscles. There is a lot more to it but it helps to think of it that way. It hurts, sometimes a lot. But, it’s SO beneficial that it’s worth the pain to avoid injury and keep those muscles loosey goosey. Here is a great article walking you through how to perform self myofascial release. If you already do this, keep it up and be consistent. I foam roll before and after runs as well as in the evenings sometimes if my muscles are particularly tight. This is where my foam roller lives…
2. Don’t be afraid of the chiropractor. I know this may sound slightly ridiculous as a tip. But, I had NEVER been to a chiropractor(well, I worked the front desk for one in college, but I thought it was all a big scam) until this past winter while training for my marathon. I was encouraged by a lot of athletes I know to go because I was having some hip pain.
Since I had already had surgery I wanted to explore all my options before visiting my orthopedic doc again. So, I went to a chiropractor that specializes in sports injuries. I saw Dr. Miller. He’s a marathoner and was in the process of training for a full ironman. This gave me confidence. Not kidding you, about 3 visits and my hip pain was gone.
It had done some damage to my knee but after the marathon I went in for about 6 weeks and he was able to fix the problem. Plus, while there I had some deep tissue massage(who doesn’t want that?) and met with a physical therapist for exercises, that I still do, for my hip flexors. I learned a ton and am SO glad I took that step, however skeptical I may have been. If you are local and you need a good sports chiropractor, you can find info about mine here.
3. Stretch!!! Ok ya’ll, so I can’t go into detail about all the different types of stretches or you’ll fall asleep. But, can I just write in all caps instead that STRETCHING IS SO IMPORTANT. I’m not yelling at you I promise. It’s just made such a huge difference for me. I’m talking stretching with a purpose. There are two major types of stretches: dynamic stretching(moving the body as you stretch to warm up your muscles) and static stretches which are stretches at rest.
Static stretches elongate the muscles and are held for at least 30 seconds. Dynamic stretches would consist of things like walking lunges with a side twist or grapevines. These should be done before your workout. This article goes into more detail. Static stretches are post workout when your muscles are nice and warm. You can find some specific examples here. I learned a lot from my visits to the chiro, one of which was the necessity of stretching. Yes, it takes extra time that you may not feel you have but trust me, it’s worth every minute.
4. Follow a smart training plan. There is TONS of information on the web today about training for different races. TONS. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and confused, so you just pick one and go with it. Try to pick a plan that works with your schedule, one that includes a variety of workouts such as speed work, tempo runs, easy runs and long runs. These are important components to any training plan. Look up reviews from other runners to see if they found this plan helpful. Don’t follow it with total abandon. Listen to your body and use the plan as a guide. It’s there to help you, not push you past what may be right for you. I’m currently reading the Hanson’s Method and so excited to try this new approach for my December Marathon. If you are interested you can order it here.
5. Cross Train. I have been running a lot lately. Trying this new method means logging more miles. However, every single time I have gone to strictly running (meaning no strength training, stretching, or cross training) I get injured. Every. Single. Time. Maybe it’s just my body, but I NEED to do something other than run to keep things fresh and work different muscle groups. I have found too that it just makes me a stronger runner. Find something you enjoy, a group fitness class, bootcamp, swim, cycle, strength train(this should be a normal part of any runner’s routine anyway) and do it once or twice a week. I love to spin and swim, so that’s my break from running.
How do you stay injury free? Do you have tips that have helped you avoid injury?
Hopefully this was helpful today!! Happy, and pain free, running today friends!!!