Puzzle Piece: Injury Prevention

After missing 6 weeks last year due to a calf strain and missing my biggest goal race of the year, my top priority for 2015 is getting to the starting line healthy. I have been addressing this goal in a number of ways.

Train Smart
Looking back at what lead to my calf strain:

  • Week of peak mileage (45 miles) including 20 mile long run
  • 30 mile week with a 10 mile run Saturday and 5k race Sunday (3s off my PR)
  • 35 mile week with a half marathon (PR)
  • Week of peak mileage (45 miles). Injured on Wednesday ran and additional 31 miles with an unknown injury. I figured if I made it through this week I would be starting my taper and take a few days off then. Clearly I didn’t know how serious my injury was.

When choosing races for 2015 I laid down the law: No back to back races. Nope, not doing it! When I sign up for races, I intend to actually race them. Racing takes a lot out of me and, for me, it is too much to race super frequently, especially when I have a training plan to keep up with!

Speaking of training, I also have mandated that every race gets a taper before the race and a reverse taper following the race. For 5ks, this means just an extra day or two of easy running following a race. For longer races, this means reduced mileage the week following a race and at least two rest days after the race.

Get Stronger
This is probably the area that I struggle with the most. I know that strengthening my core will improve performance and minimize the risk of injuries. I know that strengthening training my legs and reducing muscle imbalances has the same benefits. But for some reason, most weeks I just don’t have the motivation to get it done!

Planking with an audience.

If there is interest, I can put together a post about which exercises I am doing, but to keep this post to a reasonable length, here is a quick rundown:

  • Increasing core strength (includes abs, back, and hips)
    • Correcting muscle imbalances in my legs (my right side is a bit stronger than my left)
      • Building upper body strength (current goal: 10 pushups)
        • Improving flexibility (If your job has you sitting all day, I recommend this yoga sequence)

        Listen!
        I need to listen to my body and adjust my training as needed. This is why I didn’t hesitate to take a full week off of running when I had a chest cold. I know that running with a chest cold would only prolong the illness. I would rather take a week off and be able to jump back into training then have 3-4 weeks of mediocre training because I refused to listen to my body (It helped that while I was feeling the worst even a quick trip to the store to grab medicine felt exhausting).

        This is why on Wednesday I went out for a measly 2 mile run. I have been having some tightness in my left quad this week. On Sunday and Tuesday, it felt tight but didn’t hurt while running. On Wednesday it felt uncomfortable while running so I cut my run short. I need to know when to cut back to keep minor twinges from becoming full on injuries.

        Listening to my body also means regular foam rolling. I want to catch any minor annoyance before it has the chance to become a major issue. I know in the past that I have had tight calves and tight IT bands. Foam rolling those areas once a week as part of my body maintenance keeps them fresh.

        Are you doing anything in particular to stay injury free? Can you think of anything I should be doing differently?

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        3 thoughts on “Puzzle Piece: Injury Prevention

        1. Great post! It sounds like you will be in for a great year of running! You've really got all the bases covered!

          I'm pretty lucky that I am not very injury-prone. I have never had a serious injury that's taken me out of running for more than a week. I think one piece of the injury puzzle that not a lot of runners pay attention to is form. I try really hard to work on my form. During any run I'm always trying to do a mental check: am I standing up straight? Shoulders relaxed, core engaged? Am I striking mostly on my forefoot and keeping my strides at a decent length? Etc. Next year one of my goals is to hire a coach, so not only will I have help getting to BQ and Beyond level but I also have an outside party who can really help identify and correct my form and technique errors. It's so hard to know all of them on your own.

          I've also been more diligent about stretching and massage. Like you, I always blow off strength training and I really need to get better about that.

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        2. I think you have a really healthy mindset with your training. I see many running bloggers throw caution to the wind, and “race” all the time. Yeah they are doing okay for a good year maybe 18 months and then they wonder why they have a stress fracture… Good luck with your training.

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        3. I think you've covered most of the basics of staying injury free. I think the reverse taper is a really smart move and it's one that I try to incorporate post-race. Strength training is always a battle for me as well, but it really has helped so much.

          The one thing I do that I didn't see on here is ice massage on sore spots. Sometimes when I am foam rolling I find a spot that is especially tight or sore. I wrap half an ice cube in a washcloth and use the exposed side to massage the problem area. The ice helps reduce inflammation and it kind of numbs the area so you can give a more intense massage. It helped me a lot with ITBS and peroneal tendonitis.

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