Anyone who has been running for any length of time has probably found themselves on the injured list at least once. If you are like me and suffer from consistent overuse injuries you know the frustration of multiple setbacks. After two years of relentless hip tendonitis I have tried each of these things listed below; and I can tell you they work. The main thing to remember is you must be consistent.
Injury is the most frustrating situation. Especially if it happens right before a race you have looked forward to, and trained for, all year.
These 10 tips can keep you on the road.
- Strength Training
Strength training: the runner’s least favorite activity. You run. You don’t lift weights. You may do some squats once in a while, but that’s it. Who wants to waste precious running time on bicep curls when you can be out on the unfurled road?
Every article we read preaches strength training, and most of us ignore it. I’ll admit that I’ve been guilty.
Strength training doesn’t have to be lifting weights. You can do power yoga and use your own body weight for an effective workout. Strength training doesn’t have to be a bore if you find a way to make it interesting. Take a class at your local gym, hit the heavy bags, set a date with friends to work out together.
- Cross Train
Cross training is key for runners. Add a bike workout once a week to work your opposing leg muscles. Go for a swim for a whole-body workout. Building muscle through your entire body is extremely important for injury prevention.
Again, runners are stingy when it comes to missing out on a run, but your body will thank you for it. Incorporating different workouts will not only help with injury prevention, but will also make you a faster runner. A strong body doesn’t work as hard.
- Warm Up/Cool Down
You will do your body wonders if you warm it up before you start running. I usually start off with a brisk 5-minute walk before I start a warm up jog for the first half mile. This process will warm your body up for a hard workout. Easing into a workout reduces the stress on your muscles and joints.
You will also want to end your run with a cool down. Again, I use 5 minutes after my run to cool my body down, to allow my muscles to relax, and allow my blood pressure and heart rate to decrease.
- Stretching… a lot of stretching
This is a big key to your injury prevention success. A stretching routine will ease tight muscles, and can help prevent injuries.
When you are done with your run, take a few minutes to stretch out your muscles. Do this right away while your muscles are still warm and pliant. Stretch hamstrings, calves, inner thighs, and your quads.
You may also use one, or both, of the runner’s best friends: The Stick and the Foam Roller.
The Stick removes built up lactic acid in the muscles after exercise. This will drastically reduce sore muscles. You will also be able to target specific areas. Use it before exercise, after exercise, or both.
The Foam Roller is an amazing invention. Use it before or after your run. Use it before bed to get additional benefits while you sleep. It works wonders to dig deep into muscles and joints to relieve tension and pain.
In the past, every time I was injured, I would take handfuls of supplements and vitamins: turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, fish oil, vitamin E, calcium, and iron. At one time I think I was taking 20 vitamins a night. This was overkill. I ended up feeling worse when I was taking everything I could.
These days I only take a joint support supplement. It has done wonders for my tendonitis, not a lot for my ego. It’s can be difficult to purchase this before the age of 80. Instead of taking multiple supplements to counteract inflammation during my injury, I now focus on preventing further injury with glucosamine and chondroitin.
Over consumption of vitamins can be detrimental to what you aim to accomplish. Make sure you know what you are taking, and that the combination of vitamins is safe. Take only what you need that is specific to your area of injury. Anti-inflammatories work for most runners. Turmeric is a great natural anti-inflammatory, and you don’t need to just take a vitamin. Start adding the spice to your recipes. Or drink turmeric tea.
Rest is another thing that every runner has heard a million times, but it is so effective. We are tough on our bodies. Our muscles are torn anew every run. Our joints take a pounding. Sleep heals most abuse. If you aren’t getting your 8 hours a night, it’s time to reevaluate your bedtime Netflix binging. What is more important – running pain-free the rest of your life, or staying current with Game of Thrones?
Feed your body healthy food, and it will reward you with good performance. Stock up on veggies, fruits, lean meats, and whole grains. Avoid junk food, sports drinks, white flour, sugar, and most snacks marketed toward runners. Trust me, you don’t need this in your body. Runners have been successfully completely marathons long before the performance gel was released into the world.
Maintaining healthy levels of hydration helps lubricate your joints, repair your muscles, promote cell growth, and remove toxins. Keep a water bottle with you, and drink often. Eight glasses of water are recommended per day, but runners should be consuming more than that to remain adequately hydrated.
- Positive Attitude
Pick a sassy mantra and get out there and run. Stay positive and happy. Get rid of negative self-talk, it hurts your body in so many ways. If you have a hard time thinking positively, try 5-minute meditations to realign your outlook. Don’t think about what will happen when you are injured; think about how good you feel right now, and keep up with preventative measures.
- Be Smart
Don’t ignore what your body is telling you. If you feel something is wrong, stop running. Rest, apply ice, take some ibuprofen (if necessary), and roll it out. If it hurts the next time you run; stop running! It is easier to heal if you immediately quit irritating the area and start on physical therapy exercises.
If you do find yourself injured stay positive, and be diligent with strength training and physical therapy. But please don’t wait until you are injured to deal with the situation. Know your body’s strengths and weaknesses, and exploit them.
May you pile on strong, injury-free, miles!