I’ve had my injuries in the past, trust me, and I know exactly how miserable it is to have to spend time away from running. As a result, I have worked hard at doing whatever I can to prevent injury and keep those layoffs to a minimum. Through trial and error, I’ve developed a pretty good strategy for staying healthy.
Here then, is what has worked for me:
- At the first sign that something is wrong, take a day (or two or three) off. Give your body the time it needs to rest and recovery. More often than not, this is all it takes to stop an injury in its tracks. But it does require that you act quickly. Don’t worry about missing a few days of training. Trust me, a couple of days won’t impact your race results if you are consistent overall. And it’s better to miss a couple of days now than end up with many days, or weeks/months, later on down the road.
- Line up your team. By team, I mean, health-care practitioners that you can turn to for help with an ache or a niggle. This team might include a massage therapist, acupuncturist, PT, and/or a trusted physician who can point you in the right direction. I recently had a flare-up of my ITB after sitting too long on an airplane. I headed straight to my massage therapist and took a day off. Between the two, I seem to have put it behind me.
- Strength train. This is a proven method for keeping your supporting muscles strong enough to handle the rigors of running. It doesn’t have to require much of your time (two times per week should do you) but it helps keep injury at arms length. Work on the overall package and don’t forget to incorporate your core.
- Balance work. Running is nothing more than standing on one leg, over and over. It makes sense, then, to work on your balance so that your body can handle that motion.
- Eat a diet that includes plenty of nutrient rich foods. Real, whole foods deliver what your muscles need to help ward off inflammation and keep your overall system in balance. Don’t neglect healthy fats, which play a vital role here.
- Establish a conservative running schedule. If it hasn’t been pounded into your head already, following the 10 percent rule—adding no more than 10 percent volume or speed per week—really does work. Toy with those numbers and you might risk injury. Steady as she goes and you can make the gains you need, without the dreaded layoff.
Finally, if you should end up hurt, try to keep your spirits up by cross training and staying actively involved in your recovery. No injury lasts forever, but we can certainly slow things down by not being respectful of our bodies while they heal. My fingers are crossed, however, that by following these steps, you’ll keep the big I far from your vocabulary.