By: The Mizuno Shoe Guy
The most dreaded words any runner ever can hear is from a doctor who intones: “You are going to have to stop running for a while.” Nothing is worse than being told that you can’t run. Unfortunately, nearly every runner has had to stop running at some point in their running lives due to injury.
Regardless that the lay off from running may only be for several days or even a couple of weeks, any unexpected break from running is rarely a good thing. Taking time off from running due to an injury is not only physically difficult (you fall behind in your training and lose aerobic fitness), but it is also mentally hard to deal with and it is not uncommon for an injured runner to fall into an emotional spiral.
So clearly, the primary goal of any runner is to stay healthy and avoid an injury that could put you on the shelf for an extended period of time. Some friends will commiserate by telling you that your injury may be a blessing in disguise, but that’s easy to say when you aren’t the one who is hurt and has to put the running shoes away for an extended period.
Generally, most running injuries are the result of training errors: Too many miles and too little rest. Or, too much fast, intense training without adequate rest. Then there are other factors such as inflexible, improperly balanced muscles or wearing, worn out, inadequate shoes.
There are as many other causes of injury as there are runners, but one commonality runners share is a lack of patience, combined with a high motivation factor. All too often this means we are too anxious to progress at too rapid a rate.
Instead, the key is to only gradually increase your weekly mileage, long runs and speed training. You simply can’t continually increase your training from week to week with inadequate rest without putting yourself at a high risk of injury.
There are all sorts of techniques and schedules, but almost all emphasize plenty of rest and recovery which allows the body to build itself back up. Most runners follow a hard/easy day routine. That is, one relatively hard day of training, followed by either one or two days of easy running. In addition, every third week of training should be easier than the previous two with a reduction in mileage and speed days.
To do this well, the best bet is maintain a training log so you’ll know exactly how many miles you have run, how hard and how difficult the workouts have been. That way, you can adjust the schedule and incorporate easy days and weeks to avoid going overboard on your training.
The only good thing about being injured is that most running injuries are relatively minor and, if given the proper rest and recuperation, you will recover relatively quickly. Generally, most of the common running injuries will sideline you for only a couple of weeks if you give the injury adequate time.
Some of the key elements to avoiding these common running injuries and missing time are:
- Wear the proper running shoes. Make absolutely certain you are wearing the right type of shoe for your needs and that the shoe you are wearing has plenty of cushioning.
- Go to a running specialty store for the proper shoe. There, you will get fitted for the best shoe for you and your running style.
- Replace shoes every 300-400 miles. Different shoes wear out at different rates. Also, different size runners wear out shoes differently. A bigger runner will certainly wear out the same shoe faster than a smaller one. Regardless, make sure your shoes are not worn out. If they are, get a new pair. New shoes are always less expensive than a doctor’s visit.
- Stretch after every run. Learn a stretching routine and spend at least 15 minutes stretching the hips, hamstrings, quadriceps and calf muscles after each and every run. Many yoga studios have stretching classes specifically designed for runners.
- Strength train. Running places a great strain on your muscles, tendons and ligaments. If you can strengthen the running muscles, you will become a stronger, more efficient runner and less susceptible to injury. Join a gym and spend at least 30 minutes a few times a week strength training the key running muscles such as the quadriceps, hamstrings, calf and hip flexors.
- Hydrate carefully. The older you are, the more important this is. Dehydration can cause muscle cramps and soreness. Proper hydration is important to preventing muscular injuries.
- Ice is your friend. If you are running through any chronic muscle soreness, ice the sore muscle after stretching. Doing so, will reduce muscular inflammation that can lead to a more serious injury.
- Eat well. Running takes a great deal of energy and you need to eat the right foods to fuel your muscles. Eat plenty of fruits and veggies and carbohydrate-rich foods. Avoid fatty, sugary diets.
- Supplements may help. You may need to take vitamins or additional calcium supplements to replenish the minerals you lose in running.
- Add variety to your training and training routes. Run on different surfaces, especially soft surfaces such as grass or dirt. Also incorporate different terrain, pace and distances into your training.
- Cross training can help. It won’t make you faster, but it may make you stronger and will provide a workout without the stress of running.
- Stay off sidewalks. They are rock-hard, cracked and full of pedestrians. Constant pounding on such a hard, unforgiving surface is a recipe for injury.
- When tired, back off. At the first sign of feeling sluggish or abnormal soreness, listen to what your body is saying and either reduce your training or take day or two off.
- See a massage therapist. Schedule a therapeutic massage once every two weeks to keep your running muscles loose and limber.
- Don’t take short cuts. There is no such thing.