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Injury Prevention

May 21, 2013

I received an e-mail from a reader all the way in the UK about how I stay injury free and if I could write a post about injury prevention. Great topic! I wrote a similar article about How to Recover Faster and Run Longer.

I actually used to get injured a lot when I first started running. It was all on road and I had no clue how to increase mileage. My first run with the L.A. Leggers was 15 miles (having never run more than 6 before)! Clearly, I didn’t (and still don’t) understand the word moderation and increasing mileage slowly. So it wasn’t a surprise I kept getting runner’s knee. I had no idea what stretches I should be doing, what the heck a foam roller was, how much I should really be running etc.

Increase mileage slowly

For a beginner, this is KEY to injury prevention. Do not jump from 6 miles to 15 miles. There is a reason why marathon training plans build out the weeks slowly, also why they are usually 16 weeks long. Here is a sample of a marathon training plan for a beginner runner from Hal Higdon.

Diet

I eat as simply as I can, unprocessed, real, nutritious food. Your performance/recovery depends heavily on what you put in your body. I cut out artificial sugar a couple months ago which has played a huge part in my training and recovery. As much as I love my Diet Coke after long runs, it just isn’t worth it. I’ve been drinking a lot of natural teas, juices and coconut water instead. Which isn’t to say I don’t splurge once in a while, but when you’re eating good clean and delicious food that isn’t labeled “diet food”, you don’t really have to urge to pig out on junk anymore.

Sleep

I wrote about how important sleep is to me in this article. You can ask any of my friends or Brennan how much I value sleep. I will be the first in bed when we go on running trips (and the first one up!). I’m not embarrassed to say I get an average of 8-9 hours each night, which means making it a priority. Not watching another episode of trashy reality T.V. or surfing the web, it means getting 9 hours of undisturbed shut eye. When your body is resting, all your muscles are recovering too.

Core/strength training

10 months ago, I made one of the best decisions in my running career, and that was to purchase a package of Pilates classes from a local studio. It’s no secret how obsessed I’ve become with Pilates (specifically the SPX workout) and how much it has benefited my running (post later to come about the specific workout). Whether it’s pilates, TRX, Crossfit, strength training is a must for all runners. I’ve been taking body composition tests for a couple years now, even before I started running. It is amazing how unbalanced your body can be from all the pounding. My legs were completely uneven (I favored my right leg more since I had a bad left knee) and my core and arms were weak. I recently took another test after having introduced pilates to my workout routine. Even though my legs decreased strength a little with less mileage, they were completely balanced for the first time. My core actually outweighed my legs and both my arms were stronger. This balanced symmetry is important in injury prevention because when you favor one leg over the other, it creates a lot more stress on the leg you are favoring. Core work is key!

xtraining

Foam roll/RICE

This is something I definitely need to do more. I have every foam rolling device you can name sitting in a pile in my house. When something feels off, I get on the foam roller or tennis ball and roll it out for a few minutes a night. I also like to get a massage once in a while to work out the kinks. I’ve been seeing a chiropractor for a year now every week and he helps with my back alignment and adjusts me when needed. There is a misconception that chiros crack your bones/back, which is completely untrue. They are cracking your back/neck to release the gas that is causing tension in the area, the sound of the gas releasing sounds like the cracking of your knuckles. I was scared at first, but I’ve been doing it every week now for a year and it feels really good to get adjusted.

Resting is also part of training and is something I tend to forget sometimes. You can have an active rest day by going on a walk or taking a yoga class or doing absolutely nothing.

Change the terrain

A big part of staying injury free for me was switching from the road to the trails. I do almost all of my long runs on the trails now and try to run on the trail as much as I can. The trails are more forgiving for your knees, provides a softer terrain and the constant climbing and descending keeps your body guessing. Sure you might not be going as fast as you would on the road, but speed is all relative on the trails. It is hard to compare one trail to another since no trail is the same. Trail running gives me a equally good workout as running on the road. When you’re running on the road, the motion can be very monotonous, unlike the trails, where you are going from left to right, jumping over creeks, rocks, climbing the hills and pounding the downs. Running on uneven/rocky terrain can help strengthen your ankles and overall balance.

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