Monday, April 2, 2012
Tips to Running Injury Free
Sometimes I feel like I'm an expert in injuries! I've grown up playing soccer and running 5k races. I took time off of running while I was in college and even after I graduated. I did play soccer through college though. The training room became my second home. I started my freshman year season with a pulled hip flexor. I've always had weaker ankles, so I was always in there to get them taped before every practice and game. Not to mention all the extra exercises I had to do to get them stronger. Most of these were just smaller injuries, but like many soccer players, bigger injuries were to come. My junior year I tore my left ACL and had to have reconstructive surgery. I was able to return and play my senior year. After graduating I continued to play, but a few years later I tore my right ACL, again having reconstructive surgery. I think these injuries mean I will always have some aches and pains that I deal with off and on.
Over the last few years I have started to run races again. I've finished all distances of races including 5ks, 10ks, 15ks, half marathons, triathlons, and full marathons, even a half and full marathon in one weekend. I still have continued to play soccer, but have found that the two sports are tough to do at the same time injury wise. A couple of years ago I pulled my hamstring. Right afterwards I got pregnant with my third child. I figured the rest of not playing soccer would help it heal, even though I continued to run. It did seem to get better, until I started playing again and the pain came right back.
So my first tip would be to see a doctor sooner than later after an injury. Otherwise it could become a chronic problem that is a lot tougher to heal! I am now working with a physical therapist to try and heal my hamstring pain, which has actually led to other issues as well. Uggghhh! But at least I feel like I'm on the path to healing.
So you might be wondering why you would follow any tips I might have! This is one of those do as I say, not as I do kind of situations. Plus these are tips I have found through my research from other professionals.
1. Wear Good Shoes! There are many specialty running stores that can analyze your gait to see what kind of shoes are right for you. Try out any shoes before you buy to make sure that they are comfortable. Also track your mileage in your shoes. They should be replaced every 350-550 miles.
2. Think about posture when you run. Stand up straight! Good posture will help you get more oxygen into your lungs.
3. Hydrate! If you are dehydrated before you even start running, you have more of a chance of muscle cramps.
4. Stretching is kind of a controversial thing. Some say stretch, some say don't. Never stretch cold muscles. This can actually cause injuries. Be sure to stretch abnormally tight areas, but only after you have warmed them up.
5. Build mileage slowly. If you are trying to increase the distance you run, be sure to only up it about 10% at a time. Building slowly will decrease your chance of injury.
6. Build you core stability. Your core is just that, the core to everything else you do. Simple exercises such as planks and side planks can help you get stronger. This will also help you with your posture and the power you are able to generate.
7. DIY Massage. Running can naturally cause some muscles to tighten. A great way to lengthen these muscles is a foam roller. My physical therapist friends believes that this is a beneficial practice for all runners. Simply lay on the foam roller with in under the side of your leg and roll it up and down to massage.
8. Cross Train. It is good for your body to rest as well. Try incorporating other workouts, such as biking or swimming into your routine, as well as rest days. These exercises will compliment running without adding extra stress to your body.
9. Balance is also an important thing for runners. Poor balance can lead to increased stress and instability in the lower body. Work on your balance with single leg dips or toss a ball with someone while balancing on one leg.
10. Strength training is an important factor as well. Many runners deal with knee pain that can stem from weakness in hip abductors. Strengthening the small and large muscles around the knee can take some of the pressure off the knee.
I hope these tips have given you something to think about. Have a good run and stay healthy!