One of the things I’ve learned over the last 5 half marathon training cycles is that it’s far better to be proactive than reactive in dealing with injuries (or potential injuries). The first time I started to increase mileage, I started to have IT band pain. I got some physical therapy exercises, but did I do them? Not so much. My first half marathon training cycle, I got shin splints. Again, I got some exercises to help strengthen some weak muscles that the sports medicine doctor decided that I had. Did I do the exercises, no? I only iced or stretched if I started to notice things getting tight. I gave up lifting and pilates to just focus on running. All of these things led to exactly the opposite of what I wanted, which was to run. These left me sore, aching, and injured.
I want to state up front that I struggle with all sorts of re-occurring injuries. Between genetics (my brothers (one in the Air Force and one playing college soccer) are both incredibly injury prone too) and POTS (increasing chances of injury in general), I’m more shocked than not when I end a training week and actually feel somewhat put together (my left shin is hurting a bit right now… and I’m REALLY hoping it’s just sore and not the start of shin splints!). But I’ve learned, regardless of how I feel, to be proactive in dealing with things, hoping to decrease my chance of (or severity of) injury.
Here are the things I do on a regular (at least weekly on average) basis to help prevent or decrease injuries:
- Compression sleeves! Always and forever!! haha. I wrote an entire post about the benefits of compression and why I use them in running, so you can head over there if you’re really interested. I wear compression sleeves while I run, and where compression sleeves or socks after long runs to help aid in recovery! They are like fantastic hugs to the legs.
- Foam Rolling/using “The Stick”: I love and hate both these things. I tend to foam roll immediately after following a long run, and then use the stick on tight spots over the next day or two. My IT bands can get really tight, and this helps knead out those tight areas. Another bonus? The foam roller can act as a great little back massage.
- The Ice Bath. People have all sorts of lines they draw for when they actually start ice bathing. I have so many body parts that I want to ice after longer runs (ankles, shins, knees, IT bands) that after about mile 5 it’s just much easier to take an ice bath than to rotate ice packs for all those places. I actually don’t mind taking ice baths at all, as long as I follow these steps.
- PT exercises. I’m obviously not going to list them all out, but I do clam shell exercises, the hip bridge, and walking side steps w/exercise band around my legs (not sure what that’s really called) at least once a week. I also do a few exercises to help try to decrease my piriformis syndrome flare-ups.
- Planks! Extra core strength will only help your running! Just do it.
- Pilates & stretching. I wrote an entire post on why I do pilates, but flexibility and stretching out muscles that get tight with the same use while running or biking is absolutely critical in staying healthy and strong while training.
- Hydration. Absolutely critical for every aspect of exercising and training. If you struggle to get enough, set an alarm on your phone every hour or two that will remind you to drink (yes- I’m serious.).
So, these are a few of the things that I do very regularly to help myself stay strong, healthy, and decrease the severity of the injuries that are inevitable.
Now it’s your turn to share! What do you do to help avoid injury? Do you tend to be proactive in preventing injury or work out until you’re injured and then go into crisis mode?