I actually don't know when my last running related injury was, but I think it was back in 2013. That means I'm coming up on 4 years of being clean.
I've thought a lot about this. Why did I have so many consecutive injuries over the years and then none at all? I've got some inklings about why this might be the case, although I think it is hard to truly know. Maybe none of these are true. Maybe I just turned into an injury-free zone with no explanation at all. And - a disclaimer - this mixture of things has worked for me. Take away from it what works (or doesn't) for you.
1. My Body Finally Caught Up. When I first started running in 2008, I didn't do things like a normal person. Instead of trying moderation, my first race was a marathon. After that, I got the running bug and wanted to sign up for all the races. What a shocker that not too much later I got my first stress fracture, in my foot. After recovering from that, I thought I was being smart, but was plagued with other injuries such as a hip stress fracture, high hamstring tendinopathy (chronic) and a tear in my hamstring.
These days, I actually run more than I did then, but am injury free. I honestly think that in the beginning my body was like, "What the f&ck are you doing?" It took several years for me to build the stamina, muscles and endurance to truly train my body to withstand all the miles. Running can be hard on the body and there has to be sufficient time for the body to adjust.
3. I Changed My Form/Foot Strike. When I started running I was a major heel striker and wore pretty substantial shoes. No doubt there are many successful and accomplished runners with a heel strike. But for me, this led to injury. A simple change in my running form to strike on my mid foot and finding shoes that helped support this was a life saver for me. I've been running in the Brooks Pure Cadence for years now. They are a light weight shoe with a low heel to toe drop, which helps me land mid foot. Not for everyone, but works for me.
4. I Increased My Cadence. Somewhere along the line I had sports medicine doctors and coaches tell me to count my cadence. Research has shown that 180 strides per minute is optimal to help reduce injury and to help increase performance. A quicker and lighter cadence can help to adjust your form and prevents over-striding. Also, the load on the skeletal system is reduced per stride. These days, my watch tells me my cadence and I am usually around 170-175 strides per minute. I have to really focus to get to 180.
5. I Did Ironman Races. Like I said, I'm not much for moderation so I did two IMs only 9 months apart (Florida - Nov. 2013 and Boulder - August 2014). This forced me into consistent cross training (like MAJOR cross training) and also helped me to develop strength in areas that were previously weak. Overall, I think my body is happiest when I give it the variety and balance that swim/bike/run provides.
|My bike makes me just a little happy.|
|A cougar in her habitat|
7. I Practice What I Preached. These days, I take my recovery days very seriously. I always take two days off per week. I eat whole foods and am careful about getting enough carbs for fuel and enough protein for recovery. I hydrate well and eat very little sugar. I also try to sleep 8-9 hours per night. My Achilles heel is my wine intake - so I could work on that, but what is life without at least one vice, right?
|Overlooking a shitty view in Vegas. But, I have wine.|
Believe me, I'm not saying I'll never be injured again. But I do think I now have some strategies to decrease my chances.
I write all this simply for what it's worth. Everyone is different and the key really is to finding what works for you. But in order to do that, you have to try new things. And, it takes time. One thing I have definitely realized is that running takes patience. It takes time to build up your mileage and endurance. It takes time to recover from injury. It takes time to train for hard things. But, one thing is guaranteed - if you put in the time and you respect and listen to your body, great things can happen.
Are you injured now? With what?
Have you ever had a major running injury?
What keeps you injury free?