Things to Do When You’re Injured

At any point in time, approximately 1/3 of my runner friends are sidelined by injury. By and large, running injuries are overuse and not acute, and the unpredictable nature of these type of injuries can make rehab frustratingly long.

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Tendonosis/tendonitis, stress fractures, bursitis, inflammation, muscle strains, malalignment of joints, and mystery pain are among the top ailments we see in PT clinics during high season (late Summer/Fall). It stands to reason that distance runners, as a psychological test group, are stubborn and plow through pain fairly regularly to achieve their goals. Have you ever tried to get a runner to stop running?

Yeah…it’s, ummmmm, impossible difficult.

What’s the injured runner to do when running isn’t an option?

  1. Swim: most injuries are water-friendly and swimming is good for you anyway.
  2. Lift: likely your injury is due to weakness and you’ll be hitting the weights with your PT anyway so you may as well make the most of your time and get strong.
  3. Finally download all the necessary software to actually use all the tracking stuff on your Garmin.
  4. Organize and display your race memorabilia.
  5. Try pilates and/or yoga: strengthening your range of motion is always a good idea.
  6. Bike: if your hip/glutes aren’t involved, grab 2 wheels and pedal away!
  7. Volunteer and/or cheer: support your friends and fellow runners and ring that cowbell!
  8. Stay on top of your PT exercises: you have the time, make sure you’re putting in the work to get back on the road.
I promise you, we're here to help!

I promise you, we’re here to help…and do paperwork up the ying-yang.

Being injured is the absolute pits. But, if you get professional help early from a physical therapist and stay on top of your exercises, you’ll be back on the road to health sooner than you think.

Have you been injured recently? What have you been doing in the mean time?

On a separate note, I’m looking forward to seeing all my fellow runners in Central Park on Monday, April 22nd at 6:30pm for a gathering to show our support for the city of Boston and all the families, runners, and spectators who were affected by the tragic events of this past week. Details for the NYC meet-up here.

Thank you to Well + Good and the Twittersphere/Facebook world for spreading the word.

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Meet-ups are happening all over the country. Find one in your city.

If you’re looking for a way to donate to the families, the Mayor of Boston has set up the One Fund. You can also purchase a t-shirt from Adidas, proceeds go 100% to the One Fund.

Now go out and run!

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Foam Roller ≠ Doctor

I love that people are taking their {running} health seriously by stretching, cross training, yoga-ing, foam rolling and being generally awesome, responsible runners.

You go.

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Pink devil.

I’m proud of all of you.

But we need to talk about something. Like, how the foam roller isn’t a doctor. I know all the articles are telling you that if you foam roll til you can’t walk anymore and stretch all day every day that your IT Band syndrome will miraculously disappear.

Wrong.

Just…wrong.

But why? Well, because injuries are complicated. It’s not just confused, pissed off muscle fibers that tangle up for no reason. There are lots of reasons.

Like opposing muscle weakness.

Like funky foot patterns.

Like terrible running form.

Like tightness somewhere seemingly unrelated (but it IS related ‘cuz everything’s related!)

Like misaligned structures in your foot…

…or hips…

…or head or neck or ribcage or scapula.

You get the picture, right? There is no amount of foam rolling and stretching and icing that can realign your pelvis by joint manipulation of your hip flexors and activation of your glutes.

See? That’s a lot for someone who’s NOT a physical therapist to diagnose and do. First of all, you can’t manipulate most of your own joints. It’s just not happening. Second, you can’t watch yourself run from all angles to diagnose imbalances. And third, you can’t treat yourself.

Just 'cuz I wear the scrubs doesn't mean I treat myself. I have a whole list of professionals I see for my bod.

Just ‘cuz I wear the scrubs doesn’t mean I treat myself. I have a whole list of professionals I see for my bod.

Let me ask you a question? Did you go to school for an extra 2-4 years of grad school and get licensed by the state and are you considered an expert in the field of musculoskelatal movement? No? Oh.

THEN WHY ARE YOU DIAGNOSING AND TREATING YOUR INJURIES?????

I get it. You know a lot about your body and running. You’ve maybe “fixed” this problem before (but did you if it came right back when you ramped up your mileage?).

But you’re not an expert. You’re not a doctor.

Yo. Bad form.

Yo. Bad form.

If you have a problem, see a doctor. Most physical therapists these days are doctors of physical therapy. They are experts. This is their thing. Go see them.

The foam roller is not a doctor, nor is it a cure-all for running injuries. Get it taken care of before it keeps you from your next PR.

Now go out and run.

What Defines You?

I was briefly sidelined from running due to a bum butt about three years ago. My gluteus medius needed a break from running and I begged my PT for other cardio/workout options. They were limited. Recumbant bike, aka the one that makes your butt go numb and your back ache. And flat-surface walking. Like I don’t do enough of that already. Oh, and I could swim a little. My hair loved that month of swimming.

I was concerned at my hair while at the pool from a very young age. Also, isn't my hot pink numbers swimsuit just THE BEST?! I totally remember loving it!

It wasn’t that long without running and I had the bike and the pool and weights and stuff to keep me occupied. I feel like I have ADD when it comes to working out, except where running is concerned. Anyway, one month flew by with my PT and I was back at it, one mile at a time, because I followed all of the instructions given to me and let my body heal.

But what if it was longer? What if, in the future, I have to lay off of running for a longer stretch of time? What if it’s harder to get back to?

Clearly, running is my happy place. Running in Yankees Stadium is euphoric.

So many of my friends are currently experiencing running-related injuries that have sidelined them from running entirely for the foreseeable future. Many of them are not recovering as quickly as I did, despite following a variety of trained professionals’ advice, and the it seems that they may not return to running very soon.

Many of you define yourselves as “runners”. Me, too. But, don’t let running define YOU.

Run. Have fun. Race. Run fast. Commit to it. Work hard. PR.

But do something else, too. I have found balance in my life, and more happiness than I could ever imagine, but incorporating other things into my fitness world. Flywheel, yoga, apparently I am trying Zumba with LB, maybe one day I’ll buy a bike and do a try, whatever. I’m not afraid of not being able to run one day (maybe forever) because running doesn’t define me.

Never met a spin bike I didn't love.

Don’t let it define you. So, if one day you find that you have to cut back, take a break, or give it up entirely, you’ll be like, “that sucks, but at least I can still ________.” You know? Remember Obi-wan’s guest post? You gotta be flexible ‘cuz you never know what curveball life is going to throw at you.

Branch out. Have fun. Find things that get you going. It won’t be the same as running, but that’s ok. It’ll be something. It’ll be different. And different is good.

Now go out and run (while you still can!).

Speaking of injuries and branching out, running season is upon us! As you gear up to add mileage or hit the road for the first time, you’ll need a quick tune-up before you get going. Or maybe you have a nagging pain you can’t quite fix? Join me and my friends, Dr. Shure and yogi Lara Benusis,for a Total Body Tune-Up on Sunday, April 1st at the E. 66th St. lululemon. Have Dr. Shure check you out, get stretching/yoga advice from Lara and ask me anything about running! See you there. Don’t forget to RSVP!

Q & A: Make-Ups & Take Downs

Happy Pi Day, all you Mathletes out there! I like to call it “Pi(e) Day” and treat myself to a slice. I mean, who doesn’t love pie? I’m partial to fruit pies, cherry being my favorite. Though, nothing says home to me like apple pie.

Back on the topic of running, since this is a running blog and not a pie blog…though, I’m sure there’s a delicious pie blog out there and if someone knows of it, please send it my way, here are some recent questions I’ve fielded from newbie runners.

Q. If I miss a run, can I make up for it by tacking on mileage tomorrow?

A. Hmmm…tricky question. This depends entirely on:

  1. How seasoned of a runner you are.
  2. How healthy you are.
  3. What you are training for.
  4. How much mileage you missed.
  5. What type of workout it was.
  6. Where you are in your training.

The list of factors is endless. In general, my suggestions are thus (with respect to the above factors):

1.  Beginner: Maybe add 20% to the next run, other than that skip it and move on. Intermediate: If you feel up to it, add 50-60% of the missed run to your next workout. Advanced: Lazy bones-why did you miss it in the first place? Add a little              onto every workout for the rest of the week to make up the mileage and hit your weekly total.
2.  You’re injured: leave it alone and run when you’re better. You were sick: come back slowly and don’t worry about the missed mileage. Healthy: see above.
3.  Nothing special: add a little more to each workout. 15K or less: add 50% to the next two workouts (whatever they are). 1/2 marathon & marathon: take the next long run day and either do half the mileage in the morning and half in the evening of the same day OR do two long runs (70% of your longest long run) on back-to-back days.
4 & 5.  If you missed a recovery day, shakeout run, or other “easy” workout, forget about it. Move on. If it was a long run, see above. If it was a speed day, tack on a fast 5K or 10K to the next long run you have to work that anaerobic threshold.      6.  If it’s early on or you’re tapering, don’t sweat it. If you’re in a high-mileage week, do what you can with the above answers, give the circumstances.

Q. I’m injured but I still want to run my race in a few weeks. What can I do?

A. Don’t run. Seriously. It’s not worth ruining your body for one race. There are dozens, possibly hundreds, of races in your future if you are smart and take yourself down now. If you put yourself through the ringer and run a long-distance race injured, you run the risk of sidelining your running career for good. Is it worth it? For one race? Didn’t think so.

If you’re determined to participate because you’ve shelled out serious dough to register and get there (I feel your pain), then consider taking yourself down to the half-marathon instead of the full or the 10K instead of the half. Something might be better than nothing and if you make this decision early enough on in your training, you’ll be able to adjust your schedule and maybe even take some much-needed rest days.

Always seek the help of a physical therapist when treating injuries. They have neat little tricks and tools to help you feel better faster. Trust me. I’ve been there. Your future health is so much more important than one race.

Now go out and run!

Q & A: Runner Problems

There are problems and there are runner problems. This blog is a safe place to talk about both. Up today: Runner Problems from two awesome readers.

Q. I’m rehabbing a stress fracture in my tibia and getting ready to get back into running. Any tips?

Injured? Been there. Rehabbed that. Sprained ankles were my thing during cross country. And basketball. Also rehabbed from bad fashion and glasses that make my face look rounder than it already is.

A. First off, make sure you have the OK from your physical therapist to start running again. Second, ask them about how many days a week you’re allowed to run (at first). The will likely tell you start with just a little bit and build up from there. Lots of help, right? When I came back from my glute strain–yes, there is such a thing–I ran one mile 3 times a week as long as I didn’t have any pain at all. I swam and did the recumbent bike to supplement my cardio workouts in the mean time. So long as I was pain-free, I added a mile onto my runs every other week until I felt confident that I could take up my regular mileage again (~25 miles/week). This was after about a month.

Every body is different and so every body heals at a different rate. I would say to start small and build slowly. Make sure strength training is a big part of your life before you add on any serious mileage (like, 4 miles or more) and to do your physical therapy exercises religiously. If you feel pain of any kind, stop immediately and get back into your doctor’s office. Pain (not soreness, but PAIN) is not to be ignored when you’re coming back from an injury.

Q. My group fitness instructor had us jump in the pool with our shoes on the other night (don’t ask). My sneakers are soaked! Is it ok to pop them in the dryer?

Sopping. Wet. Sneakers. Yuck.

A. Ummmm…jumping in a pool with your shoes on? Were you given prior notice of this??? Anyway, if you can avoid the dryer, you should. The high heat can damage the very expensive cushioning you paid to have in your very expensive running shoes. A better way, if you have the time, is to remove the inserts and then stuff the shoes with newspaper. This way, the inserts can dry off and the newspaper will absorb the remaining moisture in the shoes. If you’re desperate, go ahead and use the dryer. Just don’t make a habit of it. Those shoes are pricey!

Got a question about running, running gear, life in general? Email me at runstrongereveryday@gmail.com –Don’t be shy!

Now go out and run!