The facts of life and the requirements of running often don’t mix.
As humans, we are susceptible to injury, illness, waning motivation, family commitments, and more.
All of these things can put a damper on your training, but don’t fret- these obstacles to the prime flow of your running can be averted easily and efficiently if you are prepared for the unexpected.
This series of articles will discuss how to treat acute injuries, prevent painful set-backs, fight illness, and keep your training fire alive while on the road.
When training for an important race, you will typically attempt to push your body to new limits to set that PR or complete a new distance. However, most runners neglect that the body is comprised of two chief systems when preparing to run faster or farther than you ever have.
We know that the cardiovascular system is trained easily and responds well to virtually any aerobic stress, but we tend to neglect how our musculoskeletal system (your muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments) responds to the running we do.
This is when injuries occur: our zeal for fitness gains eventually surpasses our muscular adaptation, and something starts to hurt.
Prevention of Running Injuries
While we could write volumes on the subject of injury prevention, let us simply touch on the basics and how you can work to stay virtually injury free while training hard. Some of these tenets are commonplace, but others may seem novel at first.
If you include these concepts diligently in your training, you will drastically reduce your injury risk and be able to capitalize on your aerobic gains leading into races of any distance.
- Train Your Muscles at the Same Rate as Your Metabolic System– Logging tons of miles at an easy to moderate pace is great for building general aerobic stamina, but will not do much for you when you want to add faster sessions to your training plan. The faster you go, as in a track workout or tempo run, the more demand is placed on the musculoskeletal system.
Therefore, including things like dynamic drills, short hill sprints, strides, and light fartlek year-round will work wonders in keeping your muscles as strong as your aerobic system. That way, when it is time to add the speed work necessary to perform well in your goal race, you will be ready to go!
- Work in All Three Planes of Motion– Running is an activity that is done solely in the frontal plane of motion. It is a ‘left, right, left, right, always forward’ pursuit, but this consistency neglects the muscles used more extensively in lateral or backwards movements.
We tend to hurt our IT Bands, deep hip muscles, gluteals, and shins. These are all muscles groups involved in lateral or reverse movement, so they are actually weakened in a relative since by all the running we do. To combat this, doing regular strength exercises for these lateral and posterior muscles is a great idea.
Also, completing at least five minutes total per week of lateral ‘skipping’ and backwards running is excellent for dynamically strengthening these underused muscles.
- Hydrate and Fuel Well– Two other chief causes of injury are simple under-hydration and bodily calorie deficit. Our muscles and fascia act very much like sponges. When you are hydrated and in calorie balance, your “sponges” are supple and resilient. When you are not, your “sponges” are brittle and susceptible to “cracking”.
So, fueling well with quality carbohydrates, healthy fats, and complete proteins each day is essential to healthy running, diets notwithstanding. Also, drinking plenty of water and electrolyte drinks throughout the day will keep you fluid and capable of handling hard training from the inside-out.