Too often we fall into a training scheduale, determined to reach a certain distance and we forget to pay attention to the warning signs. Injuries can affect any runner but there are things you can do avoid them.
Admit it. You probably don’t stretch as often as you should, or even at all. I am guilty for it too, you’re not alone. One of the worst things you can do after a long run is get right back in your car and sit for a long time, but it’s most often what happens. Yes running tones and strengthens our muscles, but it also tightens them up, and after a long run, our muscles don’t instantly become stronger, but they can pretty quickly become tight. Every step you take forces those quads, hamstrings, calves, and hips to flex and extend over and over to propel you down the road. After many miles, those hardworking muscles and tendons can develop imbalances, scar tissue, and tension, slowing you down and paving the way for common overuse injuries like IT Band syndrome, and Achilles tendonitis. You have to stretch these over used running muscles, especially in the quads, glutes and hips to prevent injuries from occurring.
Check out this awesome article on key stretches for runners:
2. Listen to your body
This might be the most important advice I have ever been given as a runner. You know your body better than anyone else and by this point you probably have at least some idea of what works and what doesn’t for you. If something doesn’t feel quiet right, you have some pain, or fatigue listen to your body and stop. Ignoring these signs your body is giving you can result in injury and more time off from doing what you love. Most injuries happen from over-use, over training and not stretching. If there is a nagging feeling, or slight pain somewhere it is probably a good idea to listen to it before it becomes something else. It is okay to pull-back on training for a while till something heals up. Muscle memory is an amazing thing and you’ll most likely bounce right back to where you were, and now you’ll be pain free. Do not compare yourself to other people. What works for your friend might not work for you and that’s okay. Don’t compare how many miles you are running for a particular distance to anyone else. We are all different, some people need more rest days, some people recover faster. If you have an injury, take a break. Running through an injury is completely counter-productive and will most likely make the injury worse. If you are feel tired and run down, listen to your body and take a rest day.
3. Take rest days!
Listen up! REST DAYS ARE PART OF THE PROGRAM!! They are crucial as a long training run and should be your reward after a long, hard week of training. They help prevent injuries by giving your muscle a chance to recover and heal, restore your bodies glycogen stores and prevent the mental burnout that can be associated with training. Depending on where you are in your training and fitness level, one rest day might be enough, or you may need two. They are best taken after a long run (or back to back long runs if you’re training for an ultra marathon) to rebuild your muscles and restore the glycogen that is greatly depleted on a long run. Now rest days do not have to mean sit on the couch all day. You can do some light exercise to shake out muscle fatigue and stiffness. Hope your bike for an easy paced ride or go for a walk or light jog.
4. Proper Nutrition
Think of your body like a car. To keep your car running at optimal efficiency you put in the best gas, do regular oil changes and maintance. It is the same with your body. If you feed your body crappy food, it is not going to perform at its optimum level. Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole food carbs, fiber and protein. Get the most out of your calories by eating nutritionally dense food. “Real foods” are better for you than any fortified products such as protein bars. After a hard training session it is crucial to get protein in your body immediately to help repairing your muscles. Recovery products such as Hammer Recoverite combines carbohydrates, glutamine and protein which helps brings protein into the cells faster for better recovery and helps replenish the bodies lost glycogen stores. Hydration is also key to keeping your muscles in tip top shape. Dehydration contributes to increased muscle fatigue, soreness and cramping.
Check out this previous article we wrote about fueling for running:
If you have a nagging injury that just wont go away, it might be time to see a physiotherapist. They are trained professionals with intense knowledge of the body and how it works and they can probably treat your injury. A good PT will both treat you and offer stretching and exercises you can do heal your injury at home. Registered massage therapist can help loosen up tight muscles deeper than stretching can. The word massage sounds so nice, but if you’re really sore, they can hurt! If this treatment is not in your budget, there are lots of websites online from Physiotherapists on stretches and exercises for particular injuries. Get a foam roller and role out your muscles as well to reach deeper areas like a massage therapist can.
6. Proper footwear
Choosing the right running shoes is key to enjoying the run. Please don’t just buy your favourite colour, or the cutest ones on the shelf. Getting the right size for starters can help prevent unnecessary blisters, and bruised and lost toe nails. When shoes are too big, your foot slides around and can create chaffing which can lead to blisters. Shoes that are too small can cram the toes into the front of the shoe, especially when going down hill, which can result in bruised and lost toe nails. It is important to get properly fitted for shoes as everyones gait pattern is slightly different. You don’t want to get a neutral shoe if you tend to pronate. (If you don’t know what this means, it’s a good idea to go get properly assessed and fitted) Get the ones that best suite your particular foot. Your arch height determines how much your ankle rolls inward or outward when you run, and consequently, what shoes might work best for you—a neutral shoe that allows your foot to roll naturally inward, or a stability or motion control shoe that restricts movement in one direction or another. If you have higher or lower arches you may need to get fitted with custom orthotics. You also want to get the right shoe for the right terrain. If you are running technical trails, you want to get an aggressive trail running shoe. This can help prevent ankle twists and sprains as you’ll have more grip to keep you from sliding.
If you are running on a road, a good shoe with cushioning is the route to go. This can prevent stress fractures, heel spurs and Plantar Fascitis. Replace shoes when they are worn out and watch your form to avoid heel striking.
Here is an article on common mistakes when buying running shoes:
Running is what we love to do and the last thing we want to do is sit on the side lines.