by: Patrick O’Brien
Runners love to run, but the vast majority of runners don’t incorporate anything supplemental to foster good running habits that allow longevity in the sport. A Harvard study reports that up to 75% of runners face some version of running injury in a given year. So most of us get injured, and most of us aren’t doing anything substantial to prevent these injuries. One trend I’ve noticed is injury prevention articles are typically giving you too much to chew on at once.
“Do some strength training, do some stretching, hydrate better, eat better, sleep more, stress less.” Amounting to an additional 3 to 4 hours of training and trips to the gym. Good grief, when am I supposed to do all of that? I’m not tackling all of that at once. I have a spouse, 4 kids, 2 jobs, 2 dogs, and running has to work around all of those things. As an athlete, if you give me a mountain of additional work to do, I’m going to do a mediocre job of getting it done. It’s reality. I’ve coached enough athletes to see the trend. We don’t have a lot of extra hours to dedicate to training so we skip out on what we don’t realize could likely be the most important tools.
My goal is to give you some basic pieces that you can add to your week. On top of that, these are all things that can be done at home. It won’t play out like a sport drink or shoe commercial where you’re in the gym screaming and clapping amazing clouds of chalk…the real life of a runner isn’t that epic. This is meant to be a start. Not the end all be all. My hope is that you gain at least one thing to supplement your current training routine.
You can often find me on the rug in my living room doing some variations of yoga videos 2-3 times a week. Usually you’ll find a dog and a couple kids getting involved too, but we get it done. Nothing longer that 20-25minutes. I’ve found that if it is much longer than this I will not get it done. My coach recently put THIS ONE on my training schedule and I think it does a good job of hitting the trouble spots. Sometimes I pause the video if I hit a really stiff area and want to get a little more stretch. You don’t have to be a zen master to gain some mobility, but I can guarantee you will find a difference in your mobility and the quality of your running after only a few weeks of consistent participation 2-3 times a week.
Core Strength is a buzz word topic…but myself and many other medical professionals define the core as more than the abdominal muscles. Especially for runners. As a runner, your core includes your glute muscles, and your hip flexors along with your abdominal muscles. They all assist in providing stability. Lower leg injuries can often be attributed to weaknesses in this area. This area is crucial to injury prevention. I won’t go full nerd and dive into the research. You’ll just have to trust me…or don’t, but you’re still here reading.
INCORPORATE REST DAYS
We can all get a little neurotic about running…some of us can get a lot neurotic. You know who you are…the person that feels if they don’t run 6 days a week and get in at least 60-80 miles a week, then you feel unaccomplished. On top of that you never really run at an easy pace, further complicating things. Relax. Take a break. Instances of injury drastically increase if you are consistently running more than 4-5x per week and over 40 miles per week. Sure, there are peak weeks of marathon training that require heavier load, but that should not be sustained. Take a rest day. Listen to your body. Use the rest day to truly rest from the impact. Your legs will thank you. This is a great day to do your yoga and strength work…see! Compromise, take out some of the junk miles and exchange it with valuable work. Some of the runners I have coached were surprised to find they got faster off of less mileage, mixing in slow (REALLY SLOW) running, and rest. If you’ve ever had a conversation with a professional runner or triathlete, one of the main focuses of their training is rest, sleep, and recovery…so here is your opportunity to train like a pro!
I hope to have provided you with some basics to help keep you away from the world of the injured runner. If you are in fact having pain that is consistent, lasting several days, and getting worse, etc, reach out to a Physical Therapist or MD in your area for a consultation.