I started running when I was 19 years old. Before that the farthest I had run was probably one or two miles. For as long as I could remember, my Dad had always been a runner, and by the time I was 19 he had run 7 marathons. I always thought he was kind of crazy but at the same time admired how strong your body and mind must be in order to put yourself through such a feat. So at the age of 19 while in university, a friend and I started running. It started off with 30 minutes, and gradually increased. A few months in, we had the idea that maybe, just maybe, we could run a marathon.
About eight months after we started running, I ran my first marathon with my Dad the next spring. We weren’t concerned about time, just the finishing part. We clocked in at around 5 hours and 15 minutes. That fall I ran my second marathon with my friend in the Twin Cities, our time around 4 hours and 45 minutes. My third marathon I ran the following spring again with my Dad, and while I would still run off and on, that marathon would be my (and his) last to date. Why?
The dreaded knee injury.
Dun dun dun….
For those of you runners that have had a knee injury (which are quite a few), you know how devastating this news can be.
I started feeling pain along the side of my left knee. I had an X-ray and the doctor told me that the bones holding my knee cap in place were not fully formed, allowing my knee cap to shift outwards every time I ran, causing friction and pain. He told me the words that no runner wanted to hear:
You are no longer allowed to run.
Being the stubborn woman I am, naturally I didn’t listen. The next week I was off and running again. Since then, almost eight years later, I have tried running on and off, only to be met with an injury each time. What I didn’t know all these years is that I hadn’t been training properly.
All those years my training program consisted of only running long distance at whatever pace I felt like that particular day. If I knew then what I know now, I may have been able to avoid those constant injuries. Today I’m sharing my tips with you. Keep in mind that these tips are what have been working for ME, and every body is different. It’s important to listen to your body (number four on the list) and see a professional for advice or help when needed.
Seven things I practice to avoid a running injury
- Start small and praise my small accomplishments
Every time I would start my running program, I would compare it to what I had accomplished before (a marathon), despite the fact that I now had to take it slow and work my way back up. Today I give myself praise for every accomplishment I make. I ran three minutes and the other day two? Accomplishment! I finished my first 5k? Accomplishment! FOcus on where you are today, and don’t compare yourself to others or your old self.
- Build up your core and leg strength
Before, I would do absolutely no core or leg workouts. This is a recipe for disaster! You need to build up your leg and core strength so that your knees and ankles do not take a pounding. Now I do high intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts for my lower body twice a week, and try to do 5-10 minutes of core every day.
- Practice speed work
My favorite kind of speed work is alternating a fast pace with a slower pace. First I walk for five minutes then jog for a few to warm up my body. Then I might do something as run for 1 minute, then jog for 90 seconds, repeating this a certain number of times. I like to do this about once every other week. When first starting out, I would alternate walking 5 minutes and jogging 1 minute, gradually increasing the number of reps and walking:jogging minutes.
- Get enough rest and listen to your body
This can not be emphasized enough. Often we want to (or at least I want to) go all out and complete every workout on our training plan, no matter the cost to our body. This is sure-fire road to injury. If your legs are killing you and it’s not your planned rest day, take the rest day early! Work your training schedule around your body and how you’re feeling. Be sure to not run through a injury. Stop if it hurts, and take a few days (or longer) off if need be, and don’t be discouraged! Trust your body.
- Arnica oil
Whenever my muscles are feeling sore, I’ve gotten into the routine of massaging arnica oil into them and I love it. I’ve used a couple different products that I love equally: Weleda and
- inflammation prevention and recovery
When your muscles are inflamed you are more prone to injury. Certain foods can trigger internal inflammation and certain ones can reduce it. In my daily smoothie I make sure to add turmeric, a great way to reduce and prevent inflammation. I never take ibuprofen (though it will help), as I stay away from taking pain killers as much as possible.
- Icing and ice baths
This one has been under debate for the past couple of years. It used to be take an ice bath after a long run or you’re feeling sore to relieve swelling and reduce muscle tears. Today there is evidence suggesting that ice baths may actually hinder your legs from adapting to your training. I myself tend to be a huge wimp when it comes to ice cold water (is anyone not?), so I do not do ice baths. However I will occasionally ice my knees or wherever the pain is while keeping my legs elevated. My husband, who is also a runner, told me about spraying cold water on your legs after a long run while in the shower to help soothe the soreness and swelling, and I’ve just recently started doing this.
I hope these tips might help! Remember I am not a doctor and can not tell you what is best for you and your body. If you have any tips that work for you, please share it in the comments below!