Overcoming Injury Tip No.1: Find the Cause of Pain
Injury prevention is ideal, but what do you when you get hurt?
From learning how to cross-train with an injury to finding out the best way to stay positive through the aches and pains, six running experts offer their tips for how to push past a running injury and get back on the road as soon as possible.
“An alternative way to deal with pain is to listen carefully to your body to decipher what you could be doing that is causing pain to occur.
“Lack of movement: An area that is stiff, tense, or does not move enough can cause pain. It is important to move gently and increase your range of motion carefully.
“Improper movement: Whether you’re creating too much impact from heel striking, reaching too far forward with your stride, pushing off with your feet at the end of your stride, or asking certain parts of the body to do more work than they are designed to do.
“Overuse: Overuse is not only caused by too much repetitive movement. Lack of movement and improper movement are often the cause of overuse in other parts of the body. If your hips are too stiff, your legs have to overwork; if your posture is not aligned, your muscles have to work to keep you standing; if you heel strike, your knees absorb the brunt of the impact.”
Overcoming Injury Tip No.2: Ice Properly
Curt Blakeney and Zig Ziegler
“Ice application should follow the acronym CBAN: Cold, Burn, Ache, then Numb.
“Ice should only touch the skin if an ice rub is used. Otherwise, a thin fabric should be placed on the skin to buffer the skin from the ice. Yet, the ice must be perceived as cold when placed on the injured area. Proper application of ice isnt comfortable, but the results outweigh the temporary discomfort.
“This cold sensation will last approximately three to five minutes until a burning sensation appears. The burning sensation will fade into an ache, followed by numbness. Beware that once numbing occurs, remove and discontinue the ice. Continued application following numbing may result in tissue damage.”
Overcoming Injury Tip No.3: Come Back Slowly
“Easing back into training slowly and surely means you gradually increase pace and distance—a practice that can help you build mileage even when you’re healthy. ‘This lesson is crucial, because there will be times in your life when you abandon your training—like after a stressful month at work or after taking the winter off,’ says Larry Frieder, a chiropractor who works with world-class runners and triathletes in Boulder, Colorado.
“When you’re returning to running, start with an easy workout. For example, if you used to run for an hour, run for 20 minutes instead. Slow your pace by a minute per mile, and take walk breaks as needed. Then, track how you feel in the next 24 hours. Feel great? Continue to build from where you started. Feel sore? Stick with the easy workout until it feels comfortable.”
Overcoming Injury Tip No.4: Cross Train Through Injury
“Research has shown that the human brain uses exactly the same motor pattern to run or walk briskly on steep uphill gradients. In other words, when you crank the treadmill incline up to 12-15 percent, running becomes walking and walking becomes running.
Therefore, walking on a steep incline is a highly specific way to maintain running fitness when you’re injured. But impact forces are reduced drastically compared to running, so steep uphill walking is possible with most common running injuries.
“Many runners don’t think of walking as a good alternative to running when injured because they assume they cannot match their normal intensity. Trust me: You can. Set the incline at 12 to 15 percent, increase the belt speed to 4 mph or so, check your heart rate and you’ll see!”
Overcoming Injury Tip No.5: Stay Positive
“Not being able to run a goal race as fast as you had hoped—or at all—can be disappointing, even devastating. It’s this sense of injustice that triggers anger.
“A positive outlook—as hard as that may be to summon—may be your greatest weapon. Research reports that athletes who use positive self-talk and set goals for their rehab experience ‘exceptional recovery.’ So be angry for a few days, then look forward. Set rehab goals so you can celebrate small successes. If your therapy program includes planks, aim to hold the position for 15, then 30, then 60 seconds. When you reach each goal, recognize the achievement.”
Overcoming Injury Tip No.6: Learn Your Running Body
“If you are a mono-sport athlete, it’s likely you’re only familiar with the muscles used to train everyday. During recovery, try pilates, yoga, dance, Tai Chi and other low impact workouts help strengthen your body from head to toe while teaching new and fun ways to build strength, agility, breathing and balance. Once back in the saddle, you’ll be more in tune with your body.
“You must never ignore pain. When you develop a sore spot, reduce your running just enough to make the pain go away and then begin increasing your mileage cautiously.
“Sometimes it’s necessary to stop running completely for a few days, but that is more than worth it when you consider that the possible consequences of ignoring the pain and continuing to run might be many weeks off with a far more serious injury later.”