I often get asked about how to work through the different aches and pains of running. So I’m going to give you what has worked for me.
I’ve had several running injuries. IT Band issues to calf muscles that tighten up during a run leaving me unable to finish the run. I’ve had more injuries in the past than I do these days, but it still happens.
In fact, one person on twitter asked me… Both of my calves seize up at mile 2. What do I do? What is the solution? This was asked after I had tweeted that my run was cut short because my calf seized up on me at mile 5. Why? I think I was pushing it too much, trying to run faster than I could handle that day.
Any time I encounter a problem, I walk through a process of elimination through series of steps to determine what I should do.
1. Check Your Running Shoes. Where most people make mistakes is in the very beginning of their running experience. They usually are wearing the wrong shoes and didn’t even know it. Go to a shoe store that specializes in running. Fleet Feet in the Nashville area is a great store and is staffed by experience runners. They will fit you in the shoes you need for your style of running by watching you run.
Anytime I start to feel little problems in my running. I check my shoes first. Chances are with me it’s time for a new pair of shoes. Some times this fixes my problem and yes, shoes make that much of a difference. Once they lose their support, they are no longer working for you. I go through 3 or 4 pairs of running shoes a year. This past year I’ve been running in Newton Running Shoes, which is the best shoe I’ve run in and their site has excellent information on the next point… form.
2. Check Your Form This is where learning to run better plays a big roll in how you enjoy the sport. Run with others who know good form and follow in their footsteps. Don’t bounce your way through your run… think tight and compact. By all means… don’t push it. The best thing to do is to start slow and easy. Remember… your muscles need to work into a place to handle more and go faster. Those muscles need to build up to faster and stronger legs. Once you get more comfortable with your form and your pace, your running experience will be much more enjoyable.
There is always an exception to this… those super lean, skinny friends of mine who are natural runners and don’t think about running long miles. I envy them. But even they can push it too hard.
3. Use A Foam Roller. Ah… the foam roller is one of the best purchases a runner could ever make. The foam roller is exactly what it sounds like – A cylinder made of hard foam. It used to help loosen up your muscles as if you are getting the best deep tissue massage. For example… if your calves are tight. Place the foam roller on the floor. Place your calf on top of the roller. Lift your body up slightly to roll your calf over the foam roller so that your body weight is helping provide the pressure.
Sometimes it’s going to mash your muscles so much it hurts a little. But that’s ok. I think it means it’s working. It also helps with your recovery time after a long run. I use mine even when I’m not injured. I love how my legs feel more fresh and ready for a run when I use it.
4. If none of this seems to work, my last step is to always go see a specialist. Usually you can tell in a week or so if the slight changes you are making will stop the issue. BUT if nothing is working then immediately go see a specialist so that you don’t injure yourself even more.
There is a new kind of specialist out there I highly recommend for runners… especially with IT Band issues. It’s called Active Release Technique… or A.R.T. If you have an ART person you can go to, I would start there.
There’s one underlying point I want to make in all of this. The absolute best thing you can do as a foundation to injury prevention or recovering from an injury is rest. It’s better to rest, than to push it and risk serious injury rather then a little tightness. I only run three days a week at most. Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday and mostly with Randy Elrod. Believe me… take great liberty in pacing ourselves to prevent injury as we try to get stronger and faster.
Also, our bodies need recovery time and rest. It’s the way our bodies are designed. Rest rebuilds our muscles, our mind and refreshes our spirit…. It can bring new life into out souls. Get it? Rest. It’s naturally built into our being. If you don’t rest, your body will force you to rest. There’s no fighting your own body.
I know there are many other remedies from compression socks to advil to yoga/stretching. These are just what I do for me… How about you? What helps you get through injury?