Most of us don't focus on ways to reduce injuries until there's a problem. Many athletes are forced to miss part or their entire season due to injuries. Most cross teams and running clubs that I've been a part of have had runners plagued with shin splints, stress fractures, and sore knees. In hind site, it’s clear that most (if not all) of these injuries were probably avoidable.
When we start an exercise or cardiovascular routine, we often create some overly aggressive goals for ourselves without sufficient time to succeed. In the case of my cross country team, most of the injuries were a result of runners trying to do too much too soon. In fact, the majority of the injuries plagued runners early in the season as they went from not running all summer to the full strenuous workouts of the pre-season. They gave their bodies little opportunity to adapt and strengthen.
If we adopt an exercise or running plan that includes gradual increases in duration and intensity, we greatly reduce the chance of injury and the downtime that comes with it. The best way to plan this gradual increase, is to back into your goal. For example, if your goal is to run a ½ marathon in the end of October, you’ll want to run a 12-miler 2-3 weeks before the race…an 11-miler the week before that….a 10-miler the week before that…and so on. And while these long-run workouts are a critical component to building our endurance and strength, the real key to success lies in the rest days and the lower intensity workouts in between. It’s during these times when we get stronger. If we shorten these periods, we increase the chance of injury.
And although we may try to create just the right balance of stress and rest to perform our best, we may still get an injury that slows us down…it happens. One of the best ways to minimize the downtime is to listen to your body and treat the injury before it gets too bad. Most injuries from overuse give some warning signs like discomfort and small pains before they become de-habilitating. You can head that warning sign by taking a day off or by cross-training. Most runners (myself included) are head-strong and a bit stubborn, and we would just assume run through a typhoon than enter a “0” in our workout log…listen to your body’s warning signs and ease up a bit when you have to. It’s far better to invest in a few days of rest, than it is to see a month-long string of “0”s in the workout log from a serious injury!
Check out the Common Injury pages for exercise and running related injuries and more ideas on how to diagnose, treat, avoid…and reduce injuries all together! Good luck.
You can find Reduce Injuries and other motivational fitness information in the August 2007 article of The Bullhorn. You can sign up for this free monthly e-zine below.