Each year, about 66 percent of runners -- both young and old -- suffer an injury that causes them to miss at least two weeks of training. Here are ways to help prevent that from happening to you.
It came from out of nowhere. One day, I’m cruising along doing 8 x 400-meter repeats. The next day, my right glute, knee and cuboid bone are all conspiring against me to ruin not only my run, but my walk down the stairs in the morning. Oh the misery!
It was just about a year ago that my knee and foot arch decided to get angry with me. But at the time, I had ignored the symptoms and signs. The slight stiffness after workouts, the discomfort in the morning and the difficulty pushing off at up-tempo pace all indicated I was headed for an ouchie, but I ignored it. And it almost cost me a shot at running the indoor track national meet. But not this year. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice… I’m an idiot!
I don’t know a single runner who wants to get an ouchie, boo boo or malady that sidelines us from doing what we do. And I am keenly aware of the march of time and what it does to most of us as we continue to train and compete. This latest ouchie is not how I wanted to start my 41st year of running! But both young and old alike, we get injured at an annual rate of about 66 percent, meaning 66 percent of runners will miss at least two weeks each year due to injury.
Now this may sound a bit confusing, but the best way to deal with an injury is to avoid it in the first place. It’s not like you can just cross the street when you see that boo boo racing towards you, but there are some proactive things runners can and should be doing as a part of their overall training programs to avoid ouchie-related downtime.
The biggest thing is to take your foot off the pedal from time to time and REST! The old me used to average 85 miles a week in my 20s, 65 miles a week in my 30s, 45 miles a week in my 40s and now about 35 miles a week in my 50s. Consistent training at a lower overall output coupled with built-in mandatory rest periods has allowed me to be competitive for a pretty long time, with minimal injury downtime.
Last year, I competed in the USATF National Masters Indoor Track & Field Championships on a 4x800 meter relay team that placed second out of 24 competing teams. In late 2017, I was fortunate enough to be healthy and toe the line at the USA Master’s Cross-Country Championships in Boston. Yes, my times have eroded over the past 15 years, but I’ve been able to still “get after it” when needed.
Most ouchies, boo boos and maladies stem from overtraining, over-racing, over-exerting and over-reaching. Runners tend not to think much beyond “I feel really good” or “I feel really bad.” When we’re good, we ignore that the “bad” is lurking. Something I learned a long time ago is that improvement does not happen from the effort but rather from the rest and recovery AFTER the effort. “Bad” lurks when we don’t recover. “Bad” jumps all over us when we don’t rest.
Author, scientist and runner Dr. Tim Noakes wrote in his book “Lore of Running” that, “Running introduced me to my body.” By “running” he meant the entire spectrum of running, including the cycle of improvement (run, recover, rest, repeat). Runners get that first and last R pretty well but it’s the two in the middle that take us away from knowing our true body and our true capability. We need to learn to master the recovery and rest as well as we do the run and repeat, especially as we age.One rest day should become two, 12-mile runs should become 10, eight repeats should become six, and so on.
So why did I just get hurt again? Why is my right leg all jacked up like a granny knot? As I look back over my late 2018 and early 2019 training log, I note one subtle trend – I did not recover and rest as much after my early 2018 successes as I should have. Guess this little ouchie wasn’t so “out of nowhere” after all, was it?
Former standout Lock Haven University runner Andy Shearer is a member of the Middletown Athletic Club, the Greater Philadelphia Track Club and USA Track and Field.