26 June 2010

Running - Pain and Injury

When is it serious and what can you do to prevent it? The panel of the Iron Girl and Fitness Magazine had some pretty decent tips to keep in mind when you go about training.

First, though, I have an update about another addition to the Iron Girl gift bag giveaway, that update being the opportunity for you and a friend to sign up to one of the Iron Girl triathlon events in Tahoe, Boulder, or Racine! How cool is that! So you get the gift bag, plus two optional race slots. Enter the drawing today if you haven't already done so.

So back to the topic. The whole point of the webinar was how to make it to the finish line safely, mostly if you're new to running or triathlons, but also beneficial for everyone.

When it comes to running and pain, how do you know when to listen to the pain versus when the pain is simply you whining (yeah, we all do it!)? The panel was in unison on the idea that your body pretty much can sense when you're entering serious physical harm, especially the nagging injuries that never seem to go away. Sometimes they aren't serious, but can often benefit by a week of minimal to no running. (In my instance, earlier in February, April, and May my foot kept feeling really bad after running - not to the point where I couldn't walk, but that I needed to ice it all the time. One week running just wasn't happening for me, but after that week off I noticed my foot pain started clearing up.) "An injured athlete means you're not an athlete." What Coach Troy meant by this is that if you can't train at the level you need for the goals you've set, you're not doing much for yourself by continuing to push through an injury.

This proves to be easier said than done. No one likes to stop an activity they find pleasure in doing, even if it means doing harm to ourselves. However, we often focus on the "here and now" instead of looking at it as a long-term lifestyle approach. If we train in a way to keep ourselves healthy for years to come, we're doing more for ourselves than simply training by calendar dates. It's always a bummer when we can't hit a goal we set because of an injury, though long-term it's probably the best for us.

One way to avoid injuries, especially for those new to the sport or are reentering, is to begin your program slowly and proceed with steady progress. If it took you a long time to reach an unhealthy state, it'll take you a while to get back to a healthy state. Again, this isn't something that changes overnight. There's no need to rush into a race distance or training program that's beyond what you're physically capable of doing.

Another good point they brought up, one also linked to preventing injuries, is strength training. Coach Troy suggested strength training 2-3 times a week as a way to aid endurance and muscles, especially for those over the age of 30. If your muscles are "sound", they're less likely to not be able to roll with the punches. You don't need to look like Starla, though, which actually would be a deterrent to running successfully.

Coach Troy said that the best time to focus on strength training is during the winter, when no one really wants to be running outdoors anyway. He brought up the idea of using the winter months as off training to increase your strength, work on technique, and gain a little lean mass. By following a 12-16 week progression plan, you can develop your strength much like a running plan develops your endurance.
When finding a routine, focus on one that promotes building strength and endurance rather than simply mass. In fact, any activity that includes resistance, such as pilates and yoga, are beneficial. When the spring and summer approaches, you can back off the weight training and focus on training in actual sports-specific exercises when you're nearing the dates of the actual event.

That's all for now. There were a few more training and nutrition related tips you guys probably would like to hear about that they mentioned, so I'll work on summarizing that up for one more post.


  1. All good tips!

    When I run, I use this rule of thumb that I read in RW--if I can pinpoint the pain to one area (knee, ankle, etc.), I will stop because it's probably an injury. If I just feel overall kind of "bad," I usually suck up the discomfort and try to keep going.

  2. As someone who rowed competitively in college, ran, and cycled semi-competitively, I had been guilty of ignoring pains, chalking them up to me simply not toughing things out (further supported by the sentiments of my coach). I did this to the point of permanently injuring my lower back and a serious injury to my foot.

    Basically, your body is smarter than you are, listen to it when it complains :). Definitely true on taking a week off if something feels... odd. Better to lose 3 or 4 days of running than hindering yourself later on for years.

  3. Mica ~ Excellent point, as well. Minor aches and pains that really don't mean anything will happen, but it's being able to discern when it's more serious that we sometimes fail on.

    Nicholas ~ Ah, nasty. =( I've only had one majorish injury, though the good part is that I know now what the signs leading up to it (which I also ignored for the sake of training) feels like.

    Really great point!


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