Energy Express - December 2014
Running is still leading the pack as one of the best ways to work out, burn calories, calm your mind and strengthen your heart and lungs.
“It’s been my meditation,” says my friend Kate, a long-time, long-distance runner with reccurring knee pain. “But I’m hurting in places that never hurt before. I used to go for an hour and a half, but now I’m feeling bored and ready to quit after 30 or 40 minutes. I don’t think my body can take it anymore.”
Kate wants to learn to race walk, a goofy-looking Olympic sport and vigorous workout that has all the benefits of running but is much easier on the joints and muscles. I know she’s not ready to give up running, and she may find a way to keep going. But her lament prompted today’s lesson about running injuries, and how to prevent them.
I’ll start with the takeaway: The most common running injuries are preventable if you understand how they happen, why they happen and what you can do keep them from happening to you.
[WHAT IS A RUNNING INJURY?]
Any ache or pain that causes you to reduce your weekly running mileage is defined as a running injury. According to a recent overview of running injuries in the IDEA Fitness Journal, knee-related injuries are the most common, followed by foot, ankle, lower leg, hip and low back.
The aches and pains of running are extremely common, the authors report, and it’s the novice and recreational runners who suffer the most. “Experienced runners tend to have less risk of injury because they develop an innate ability to recognize the onset of an injury and keep it from worsening.”
Developing your ability to tune in and listen to your body will teach you how to prevent running injuries. You might have to slow down. You might have to practice yoga or qi gong. You might have to browse through “Gray’s Anatomy.” But once body awareness happens, it’s the best training buddy you’ll ever have.
[WHAT’S THE BEST TREATMENT?]
It’s etched in stone at the entrance to the University of Well Being: Self care is the best care. Of course we need our doctors, our clinics, our pharmacists, but you have to be informed and proactive. To immediately reduce the inflammation that comes with a running injury, start with rest, rest and more rest. Ice—not heat—and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) are also part of your first aid kit. Partner up with a medical practitioner you trust and figure out a more detailed treatment plan, if you need one. Find a rehab program that stresses cross-training—running in water, swimming, biking—so you can stay fit while your injury heals. This is crucial! Running is addictive and if you’re suddenly side-lined, you need to get that endorphin rush elsewhere. If muscular imbalance or weakness is a likely cause of your pain, get going on a resistance-training program designed to build up and protect muscles and joints.
[WHY DO INJURIES HAPPEN?]
There are whole books devoted to the causes of runner’s knee, ITBS (iliotibial band syndrome), shin splints and other common running injuries. But let’s cut to the chase: Injuries generally happen when your body isn’t strong or flexible enough to take the stress of “repetitive microtrauma.” Running is all about repetitive microtrauma. If you’re into running long distances, it can’t be avoided.
The IDEA Fitness Journal article’s list of the most common causes of running injuries include:
> Increasing your weekly mileage too quickly.
> Running too long, too often. (Running more than 40 miles a week is seen as significantly riskier than running less.)
> Training too hard, or coming back too soon from an injury, without giving your body enough rest, so it can do the work of healing.
> Running on muscles that are out of balance and not strong enough to take the stress.
> Running on inadequate or worn out shoes.
Running injuries hurt. And they cost a lot, too. The more you know about what’s causing your injury—worn out shoes? weak hamstrings? ego issues?—the better able you are to treat and prevent them. And consider a switch to a different sport. Racewalking! I love it. So do my knees, ankles and hamstrings.
DO THIS AND INJURIES WILL PASS YOU BY
“Build step by step. Push yourself, but not too hard. Learn. Keep it fun.” —Matt Fitzgerald