We’re back! In the first part of this post, we went over why the human body evolved it’s way into having many great qualities important for running. If you haven’t read it, go back and check it out. It’ll will help you frame what we’re talking about. This particular post is going to help you understand things that should be incorporated in your program to help prevent injuries. It’s frustrating to me when I hear, “Running is bad for your joints, cardio makes you lose your gainz, etc,” because that might not be the case. It might be a whole host of other things you are doing or not doing that are leading to your issues. With that said, here goes nothin’!
Stop Running Through Pain
Seriously. Stop. Anti-Nike. Don’t do it. Pain is a protective mechanism of your body. It’s telling you that something is off. Maybe it’s your form. Maybe it’s your ankle mobility. Maybe it’s your glute strength. Regardless, it's something that should be listened to. You’ll never know until you stop and figure out what going on; mainly by going to see a professional. We all get that you have an iron-clad will, but trading a single run for months of recovery doesn’t seem like a fair deal to me. If you keep trying to forget that it hurts, you’ll eventually lose that battle and end up with an injury that may never go away.
I will also recognize that running has it’s ups and downs. There will be days that you feel like you could break through PR walls, and others where you might be a little stiff and have a low energy level. It’s important to understand how your body responds to these stressors, including differentiating between real pain and general soreness. A general rule of thumb to use is whether pushing through the issue will make it significantly worse. If so, time to get it looked at.
Understand, Prepare, and Read Your Body
As much as I love going HAM on some exercise, sometimes life gets in the way. Stress, time, fatigue; it’s all part of the equation of long term success. Sometimes you’ll have to scale it back. So when that time comes that you just aren’t with it for whatever reason, it’s okay. Just put the crock pot on simmer for the day and get after it the next day. Of course, there will be times that you need to grind out a long run or a lift, but you need to be aware of when your body is mentally and physically fatigued (versus straight up laziness).
This is one of the reasons recovery is so important, and as you can probably tell, I harp on it a lot. Start by taking a real introspective look at what you do in and around your workouts. Consider these three factors: nutrition and hydration, sleep patterns, and mobility and soft tissue work. For example, it’s amazing what happens when you get the right amount of sleep after a few nights of not-so-good sleep. Am I right? Did you eat and hydrate correctly? Did you foam roll and warm up? Keeping tabs on this stuff will really help you get to know the in’s and out’s of your body, as well as keep you feeling incredible.
Strength Train Frequently
Here’s the thing about that many people forget about. Being stronger is an all encompassing thing that helps you crush life, period. It’s never a bad idea. You won’t ever hear someone explain their goal of, “You know, I think I just want to be a little weaker than I was last year.” While this may seem fairly obvious, runners continue to neglect this part of training. Not only from an injury prevention standpoint, but from a relative strength standpoint (strength in relation to your bodyweight).
If you think about it, the act of running is simply a translation of force into the ground, and this propels you forward. At a very basic level, the more force you can create against your own bodyweight, the faster you will move across the ground. Catching my drift? Obviously there may be other limiting factors here, such as conditioning level, efficiency, or level of fatigue. Plus, getting stronger will help give your joints stability, as well as the ability to work at a higher intensity for a longer period of time. If you aren’t sure what to do, get help! There are many “free programs” out there, but they are worthless if you don’t know how to execute them correctly!
Now, lets address the other side of the equation. If you refer back to Part 1 of this post, I mentioned how we evolved into runners because of the need to find and obtain food. Back then, we were much smaller. It was rare to find someone overweight, as we had much less access to food. Flash forward to today, where the obesity rate continues to rise alongside the growing number of people who engage in various running activity. It’s no wonder that we keep seeing all these injuries. The structure of the body can only handle so much. Focus on increasing your strength while lowering your body mass and you’ll see a huge difference in the way you run.
Run Fast, Run Hard
As simple as it gets here. Once you establish a solid aerobic base, you need to get comfortable pushing your limit. Within your training program, have some shorter runs that focus on speed. Hill work falls under this category too. This is important for a number of reasons. The first of course, is that you are developing your ability to use carbohydrate more efficiently. Translation: You can push harder, for longer periods of time. Sticking to your normal pace and just running longer is only going to help you run farther, not faster.
The other reason, is the reactive stability the body will create for you. Moving quicker allows the muscles to stretch and contract at a faster rate. From the feedback of the ground, the joints stabilize themselves based on the force exerted. This is crucial for injury prevention, as well as teaching the body to create speed and translate it into the ground.
Last one, I swear. Take 5-10 minutes so you can get your body ready for the run. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it’s going to help you feel like you aren’t made of Elmer’s glue when you get going. Start from the ground and work your way up. It will help lubricate the joints, increase your core body temp, and increase the length of the tissue. Check mine out:
Groundwork: Foam Roll > Open Book > Deadbug > Single Leg Bridge
Activation: Standing Flamingo > Squat to Stand
Dynamic: Inchworm > Lunge with Twist > Tabletop Knee Pull > Forward and Lateral Power Skip
You don’t have to do this stuff, but try to get something in. It will help warm up the body and the lungs, so you aren’t asking:
As you can probably tell, this is truly the tip of the iceberg. There are many more things to discuss about training schemes, logging miles, and the type of running you may want to do. In the interest of brevity, these are the big ones that I see all the time. It’s important to understand what goes on within your body when you are engaged in a training program. This becomes glaringly obvious the further you start to run, especially in the way of recovering. You may have some aches and pains here and there, but be sure to understand the “why” behind it. If you are running through actual pain, you aren’t performing optimally and getting the most out of your body. Ultimately, the biggest tip I can give is to be committed to the your overall health, because that’s why we exercise in the first place.