Being an injured runner this spring has not been easy on my spirit but it is probably doing wonders for my body. On the first nice (warm) day of 2014 I decided to go out on my 8 mile loop. It was a great run followed by a not so great stretch, dinner and bed. The next day was beautiful so I decided to repeat the same 8 mile run. Right around mile 6 I felt a twinge in my right knee (that was new), at about mile 7 it was a shooting pain. As someone who has never had a knee injury, I panicked. I shunned running for the next two weeks. I was doing mostly HIIT, plyometrics, kettlebells and some yoga here and there. My knee pain was almost gone until my friend called me on a gorgeous Monday and asked me to join her on a run. I had just walked my dog three miles with zero pain so I accepted her offer and headed home to meet her. About 3 miles in the pain was back. UGH. Frustrated and desperate I made an appointment with my physical therapist that Wednesday.
Long story short, I have damaged the surface of my meniscus. Apparently it is not bad, but It was 100% preventable. I was NOT practicing what I preach to all my clients: RECOVER RECOVER RECOVER.
I have made myself a human experiment and I am using every means I can to rehab my knee. So I am icing after use and applying heat during the day. I am not running. I am doing plyometrics sparingly. I am having orthotic inserts made. I am stretching thoroughly and I am participating in PREHAB exercises.
Pre-habilitation is the proactive way to prevent running injuries. I know how a runner’s brain works. We want to log miles and improve; not stretch, roll and do leg lifts with the time we allocate to our workouts. It took me a long time to learn that in order to be a better runner, I have to take care of my body. When I am injured, I feel almost depressed. Every race posting I see on Facebook has me disgruntled. I am beyond jealous.
So here is how you can PREHAB your body as a runner
- Stretch well after every run: When your IT band, hamstrings, glutes, hips, calves and quads are tight they are more prone to injury. Don’t limit yourself, stretch whenever you have a free chance. You may look like a weirdo in the grocery store line but at least your hamstrings will feel good.
- Buy a foam roller and actually use it: A foam roller is like a massage at home. Myofascial release is so key in recovery. I try and dedicate time after almost every workout. If I don’t have time I bring a lacrosse ball to work and roll it over tight muscles. Roll while you watch TV or during your evening downtime. If you have time to get on Facebook and Pinterest, you have time to roll.
- Strengthen your glutes: Your Gluteus Maximus and Gluteus Medius are often weak in runners which can lead to injuries in other lower extremities (commonly the hamstring). There are a number of exercises that can be performed to strengthen your Glutes. This article from Runner’s World has some great exercises to try.
- Strengthen your hips: Your hips don’t lie. They need to be strong and flexible when you are logging miles. See the video below for a 6 minute workout that activates your hips and glutes. It requires no equipment. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lW6uFHrHbDU
- See a specialist: If you have unusually high arches or flat feet you may benefit from seeing a podiatrist. They will mold or scan your feet for orthotic inserts to place in your running shoes. Over time high arches get higher and flat feet get flatter, so this is a great way to prevent any future muscle imbalances that could occur as compensation for your less than ideal foot physique.
- Attend a Clinic: Running clinics are held all over the country to help runners fix their form and prevent injury. I am yet to attend one myself, but It is my goal to complete one by the end of the summer! Find one near you here!
- Recover: Allow time for your body to heal weekly. Plan to rest on a day that is already busy with errands. This will give you less free time to think about your lack of exercise on that particular day. I do gentle yoga on my off day. Below is a short yoga recovery to try