Why You’re Injured

So, I’ve been a runner for going on 22 years. I started off running in 5th grade track and graduated to a full mile in 6th grade during my first cross country season. The next year is was 1.5 miles and by 8th grade, I was running 2 mile races. High school cross country introduced me to the 5K and freshman year of college was my first 10K (Bolder Boulder, baby!).

I was always very active. Not fashionable, mind you, but active. I never did learn how to stop properly in my roller skates. I always just ran into the grass.

It was a very slow progression. From 1-6.2 miles in 8 years. From there I started running LONG distances and ran my first marathon in 2003. I have run 9 marathons in 9 years.

And I’ve only missed one month of running due to an overuse injury.

One month.

It was an overused/underdeveloped left side gluteus medius and one month off of running + 3 months of rehab got me to my fastest marathon to date (3:46).

Post-injury Marine Corps Marathon. PR!

One month.

Why? Because it took me 8 years to get to 6.2 miles and 11 years til I ran my first marathon. That’s why.

If you understand connective tissue, you’ll understand why so many people experience overuse injuries when they decide to just “pick up” marathon running as a hobby in their 20s and 30s. Ladies, you have a huge strike against you. Estrogen contributes to the break down of connective tissue. Yay for being a woman. So, on top of all the repetitive movements that are making your newfound hobby hurt a little more than you expected, your hormones are actually working against you.

Ugh. The “why me?” of being injured is probably the most frustrating thing that I hear from newbie runners. Why you? I’ll tell you why:

  1. Because you did too much too soon.
  2. Because you didn’t rest and recover from your last marathon/half marathon/longest race.
  3. Because you don’t lift weights.
  4. Because you don’t take rest days.
  5. Because you don’t run enough for your body to get used to it.

If you go from 0 to 26.2 in a year, I guarantee you will have an overuse injury by the time that year is out. You may not even make it to your marathon because you will develop ITB syndrome, tendonitis or some other overuse injury. Promise. The odds that you will develop an injury can go up considerably when you look at your weight, diet and gait.

How do you get around this? Easy. Don’t go crazy.

Yes, it would be cool to run the New York City Marathon this year. You will not be ready by November. Try for next year. BETTER YET, try for 2 years from now and build up gradually. Sure, a half marathon in August may not kill you, but it will definitely not make you stronger. Why not shoot for a 10K instead?

Race For the Cure 5Ks are all over the country–and for a good cause! Lots of t-shirts with “boobies” written on them. Pretty sure you’re not gonna see that in Boston.

Don’t drop all of your other fitness habits just because you want to run. I still spin 2-3 days a week during first half of marathon training season. I also lift throughout the entire year to keep my muscles strong and to increase the density of my connective tissue, which is a very slow process.

Don’t go crazy. Take your time. If you do it right, you can start running now and be able to run for the rest of your life. If you do it wrong, this might be the only race you ever run.

Your choice. Run forever or run for now?

Tell me about your injury. When did you finally seek treatment? Share with us so we might learn from you!

Now go out and run.

Too Much is TOO MUCH (and how to avoid doing too much)

You ever have that nagging pain that just won’t go away? Do you feel tired on every single run and never get anything resembling a “runner’s high”? Are you getting sick all the time? Do you have trouble completing what would normally be an easy run? Does it take you forever to recover from a workout?

You might be doing too much.

Things like tendonitis, stress fractures, torn labrums, illness, muscle strains and stupid injuries sustained from tripping over curbs and face-planting because you’re too tired to lift your own feet while running…wait, don’t tell me I’m the only person who’s done that. Well, there you go. I trip when I’m tired. It’s very embarrassing and always leaves a mark.

These things happen when you’re doing too much. And where your body is concerned, too much is too much.

As someone who has an auto-immune disease, I have to learn the very hard and painful way what is too much for me. For most of you out there, you can still power on through for days and maybe weeks before your body starts to talk to you. Maybe it comes in the form of tendonitis or a more serious injury. Whatever it is, you will know it because it will stop you dead in your tracks if you don’t take care of it. But there are always warning signs you’ve chosen to ignore. Here’s how to avoid doing too much:

#1. Schedule your days off. At least one day completely off from working out. This doesn’t mean, “Oh, I’ll hop into an easy spin class” or “It’s just a 60 minute yoga class. Stretching is good, right?” Wrong. Yoga is NOT just stretching and breathing. It is hard and it is a workout. Rest is rest. You’ll know it because you’ll feel RESTED after having done it.

#2. Add mileage gradually. Jumping into a marathon training schedule before you can run 8 miles straight without stopping or finishing in torturous pain is a recipe for failure and injury. Stress fractures and muscle strains are common in people who decide that this is the way to go and they are not easy to come back from. Plan ahead at least six months before undertaking such a long race. You’re much more likely to succeed if you take your time with adding miles.

#3. Cross-train year-round. Cross training isn’t just for the off-season. You should be cross-training throughout your race season, but just do it less. You don’t try to set your personal squat record during training season, but you do incorporate lower body strength training into your schedule at least once a week. See the difference? Cross-training will keep you healthy and balanced so that you can best stave off overuse injuries like tendonitis that happen when you do TOO MUCH of one thing.

#4. Listen to your body. It’s talking to you.

#5. If it hurts, don’t do it. If you have a sudden pain that just won’t go away, something is not right and you should stop what you are doing that causes that pain and get it checked out. Good rule of thumb for many things in the fitness world. You know the difference between “it hurts because it’s hard” and “it hurts because it hurts” so don’t go commenting on how all exercise hurts. It’s a different kind of pain and you know it when you feel it.

Really, though, you have to know your body and know your trigger points. When my hips start to ache, I know I’m overdue for new sneakers and I kick myself for not remembering to stop by JackRabbit last time I was down in Union Square. My hips never hurt unless it’s my damn shoes, so if they suddenly start hurting, it’s either the shoes or something serious. Know thy self.

Be kind to your body. It’s the only one you’re going to get.

Now go out and run!