Friday, December 30, 2016

7 Reasons Why I Haven't Been Injured in Over 3 Years

As I sit here writing this post, I am knocking on wood in every direction. The superstitious part of me thinks that if I write a post on not being injured for so long, then I will have a running injury tomorrow. Guaranteed. Damn superstition. Oh, well. Here goes.

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.

2. I Quit Yoga. I've done yoga for many years - Ashtanga, Bikram, Restorative, Vinyasa.  I always thought it was a wonderful supplement to my running because it slowed me down, stretched my muscles and instilled strength and balance. But...I found that the moves stretched way too much on my hamstrings and irritated them so much when I ran. I guess we all have to make choices and I sacrificed yoga to keep running. I know many people would disagree and would tell me there are yoga moves I could do that would work for me, but for now I'm content with my choice.


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.
6. I Hit the Trails. Hard. I think trail running has brought the greatest shift to my body and to staying healthy. I run on trails at least twice, if not more per week. This past year I did two trail marathons and one 6-day 120 mile race over the Colorado Rockies. All of the trails I run on are technical and involve steep climbing and descents. This is vastly different than road running and challenges your body to find balance, coordination and to use different muscles than you do when running on roads. Sure, my legs are bulkier than they used to be, but they are stronger and can carry me over mountains in a way they could not before.

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?

SUAR

35 comments:

  1. I'm a huge believer in chi running. I had an endless cycle of injuries...Cruising along for a few months really well and then bam! Plantar fasciitis, stress fracture or debilitating muscle pulls. I got sick of it and decided I better do something different. So since I was living in Korea with no coaches or classes, I checked out Chi, then bought the book. Became my bible for a few months as I practiced endlessly. Now it's been almost two years, running 30 miles a week and totally fine.

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    1. Agreed. There is a lot of good stuff to Chi Running. I too have the book and took their workshop a few years ago. They really focus on form and mid foot strike and I took a lot away from that.

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    2. Another pleasant side effect...I got faster with the lighter and quicker turnover. Not hugely so, but an improvement of 20-30 seconds per mile changing nothing but how my body hit the ground and at higher cadence was great. I originally learned to run in college where I had a physical fitness test every six months and I sprinted like a coked out orangutan with legs flailing. I kept that up even as I increased distance...ask me what my feet looked like after running Pikes Peak! I'm so glad I finally took the time to learn a better more efficient way.

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  2. I'm currently injured, because I slipped on the one patch of ice on my run last week Thursday and landed hard on my hip. After eight days I went out for an easy 4 miles today, on an indoor track at the Y in case I had to switch to cross training. The run went well, though, so I'm guardedly optimistic.

    Otherwise, I've had very few running injuries since I started up again in 2014. I rolled my ankle in 2015 and pinched my sural nerve, which was weird. Otherwise, any injuries I've had have come from other things, like a bike crash with lingering aftereffects, though they sometimes affect my running.

    I attribute my paucity of running-specific injuries to (1) doing most of my running at an easy pace and (2) cross-training; I run 3-4 days a week and bike, hike, or walk on most other days. I should do more regular strength training, especially with the big 5-0 not too far away.

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    1. I fell while running 2 weeks ago and sprained my ankle and bruised my ribs. As I get older (51) my body is starting to hold a grudge against me for longer and longer for the stupid shit I do to it.

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  3. I started running in 2008 as well. (And was a French major in college.)

    My last injury was in 2013. Had 2 in 2012 and 1 in 2010.

    I have thinking about writing the same post. But I'm not sure when I am healthy.

    I did give up yoga. Hmmm.

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  4. I'm not currently injured and haven't had any serious injuries in 20 years of running. Maybe it's because I'm a slower runner?

    I ran my fourth marathon last year and committed to cross training the entire time. I ran 3x week and cycled 2x week. I felt better physically and mentally and got a 7 minute PR!

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  5. I think 3 and 4 go together. I did both of those as well, with positive results. Running occasionally in minimalist shoes helped teach me the form, although I don't wear shoes like that much.

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  6. When I first started running, I strained a hip muscle. It probably would have been okay if I had rested for a week, but I kept running, thinking eh, maybe running just hurts? Finally it got to the point where I could barely walk. The doctor told me I needed three full weeks off and to start back very, very slowly. I took his advice and haven't been injured since. Also, he blamed my weak ass for the injury (literally, the muscles were too weak from sitting during my three hour commute and eight hour day job). That was fun to hear!

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  7. Amen to all of these! Except sub "beer" for "wine" and strike the part about drinking less. Vice. Needed. I also had to literally learn to use my ass...I ran for years with the focus always coming from my quads and hamstrings, and had significant hip and knee injuries for that very reason. So I started doing kettlebells and TRX to increase glute strength and literally learn how to use this (not so small) arse of mine to run. Yoga is miserable for me. I don't enjoy it, my body doesn't enjoy it. And the whole time and I cussing at myself to relax and breath deeply. #doesntwork

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  8. High hamstring tendonosis for two years!!! would love to hear how you overcame that!!

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    1. Agreed! Such a literal pain in the a**. Would love to hear how you dealt with it.

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    2. Seriously, I didn't deal with it. Just stopped yoga and did the above listed things and eventually it subsided.

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  9. Wow. Just wow. It's got to be the wine.

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  10. This is a great post. I think wine is an excellent vice, nothing wrong with that!

    I currently have a suspected stress fracture in my foot. No xray done because - what's the point? Treatment is apparently the same: rest and elevation of the foot until the swelling goes away. Then slow progress to walking before I even run a step.

    Not sure what constitutes a major running injury, but things that have prevented me from running for periods of time include plantar fasciitis; ripped out a toenail on my big toe; other stress fractures; etc.

    Now that I'm not running, I'm hoping swimming and aqua running will keep me injury free. I definitely need the cross and strength training too.

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  11. Interesting that someone else had the same experience with yoga. I thought, several runners I thought highly of also thought, lots of article writers all think that doing yoga between runs was a good thing. Well, it turned out I wasn't good a yoga even though I loved my teacher, and I wasn't running that well. I stopped yoga when that teacher retired. Then my running got better. Way better.

    I totally believe you need to take the time for recovery, and pay attention to how you feel during the run. Just because the schedule says you should go hard, maybe your body is saying you shouldn't. It's a fine line. Our bodies are notoriously lazy if we let them be.

    Working towards a light quick stride has helped, but there's still a lot of T Rex in my stride. A work in progress.

    Wine! Some but not too much is perfect for runners.

    No current injuries. No run injuries more serious than taking a few days off and dialing back a bit. Wine, remember what I said about wine?

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  12. I do yoga about once a week. Just enough to keep my hips loose and my calf muscle stretched as both tend to tighten up. What I really like about multi-sport training is you can usually do one sport while recovering/resting the injured part of your body from the other sport.

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  13. my injuries: I'm 58. Over a year ago I developed perennial tendinitis on my right ankle. It is still tender although I have nursed it and taken it easy fearing it will get worse. However worse happened on my left foot. I have a metatarsal stress fracture. Even with 1 cortisone shot (that's all I am allowed) resting, icing, pads etc. it is not much better. This has severely restricted anything but walking on the side of my foot throwing off my gait, my back, and of course interfering with my right foot's healing. I could cry from frustration. I started running in July 2011. I feel like a newbie, and by the time this is all over I will be happy if I can run a 1/2 a block. previously I ran trails, now my doc suggest finding flat trails. ARRRGGGHHH.

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  14. I have had Achilles tendinitis (which resolved with stretching and rest for about 2 weeks - of course, AFTER the 5K I had been training for), I did something to my stupid ankle about 2 years ago and they put me in a brace (because my doc suggested I might try running if she didn't make me wear it - HA!) and then last year I ended up in PT because of my knee - due to weak hip muscles. PT got me through my half last spring. Now I'm trying to remember to do my at-home strength training for my hips as I prepare to train for my next half in May.

    Also, I'm glad you mentioned yoga. I have thought about trying it, oh, I dunno, a million different times but something always stops me. I have officially shot it down now and am looking into other stretching techniques. We'll see how that works. :)

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  15. Do you keep that cadence on trails as well as roads? Or does your cadence decrease somewhat on trails?

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    1. My cadence on trails is fewer strides per minute. More like 160. I'm not totally sure why that is because when I'm climbing I try to take smaller steps to conserve, so maybe I am overstriding a bit on the downs?

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  16. Wow, good for you. You never realize just how important your health is until it's taken away from (which I'm still dealing with, although I was injured doing something other than running). The shortened cadence is a good tip, and helped me not only avoid injury, but run faster too. Cheers for a healthy 2017, too!

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  17. Like you, my entry into running was the Chicago Marathon. I had never even run a 5K. I did a lot of races this past year and my hip has been achy since the last. It will settle down, but even a 3 mile run will remind me that it's there. I'm planning to take a break from running and work on some muscle strength instead. So far no injuries besides that. If that's all I have to report...I've got not complaints here!

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  19. great post, and timely, Beth. You might be the first person ever to suggest dumping yoga; i can't hyperextend my back, and some of the poses are brutal. Defintely agree with trail running: since every step is different, there's much less repetitive motion stress and essentially a lot of 'cross' training with varied muscle recruitment, Foot strike and cadence also critical.......and i do think you're over-doing your recovery days, if that picture is any indication... :)

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  20. So I have a question- this seems like a good place to ask- I have heard a number of podcasts, read articles, etc.. about triathletes becoming injured just like...'us'. But with the automatic cross training, doesn't it seem like they would NEVER suffer an injury? Automatic glute strength, great cores from the swimming... just seems weird to me.... oh- and the yoga drop kick is awesome... I always feel guilty that I don't avail myself of the yoga for runners class offerings in my area

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    1. I don't really know the stats on this one, but my guess is that runners probably get injured quite a bit more just due to the repetitive motion and the lack of using a variety of muscular systems like you do when you are swimming and biking as well. That said, with triathletes over use and over training can certainly be an issue and then there is the added issue of accidents on the bike. In all of my Ironman training over two years I was never injured or sidelined, so that is something I suppose.

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  21. Thanks for your observations!!!

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  22. Great article!!

    Cross training is huge for me. When I'm marathon training - I always try to incorporate at least 1 day of light strength training and I swear it helps keep me balanced. when I let that go -- things seem to start going wrong. I am dealing with a bit of an injury, however - plantar fasciitis. But it's very mild, and if I stay on top of my exercises and roll it out on an ice ball every morning I'm good!

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  24. Hi! I love your blog! I have had a knee injury for the past 13 months. So frustrating. I'm 43 and have been a recreational runner, 25 miles a week, for the past 5 years. I spread those 25 miles out over 6 days so I didn't think I could get injured. WRONG. I had arthroscopic knee surgery 8 weeks ago to trim the torn meniscus (25% taken out) and had chondroplasty on my kneecap and femur. This healing process is taking WAY longer than I expected. Sucks. Big-time. I should've been cross training and not running through pain. Do you really take 2 days a week completely off? That's awesome! If I'm able to return to running I need to get serious about rest days. Right now it seems like my knee will never get better. I need to drink the Zen Tea. Hard to do when my Zen Tea has been running for so many years.

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