If you are injured, you cannot diagnose yourself over the internet. Go directly to a qualified doctor, physical therapist, podiatrist, or chiropractor you trust. The majority of injuries—the ones we are going to focus on—are from uncontrolled training (increase in speed or distance).
These are injuries caused by any changes you’ve made to your training, whether it be a large increase in mileage, faster speeds, or a specific speed work session. 99% of these types of injuries are preventable. Injuries happen when our mind takes over and we stop listening to our body.
How to spot an injury
Spotting an injury usually comes from experience. You feel a pain in your leg you think is just a tired muscle, so you keep on running until you end up pulling your hamstring. Next time, you will spot the pain early and slow down. The telltale sign here is the fact that your body will signal to you when it is unhappy, and the earlier you pick up on that signal, the shorter your recovery time will be. The key is listening for it.
Two methods to help spot an injury
• Mark a location in your mind about 5 minutes from the end of your run. Every time you pass this on your way home, ensure you spend those 5 minutes listening to each individual muscle in your body, from top to bottom.
• Keep a log book. This can show you if you have increased your weekly mileage too steeply or if your intensity has been too high.
How to prevent an injury
If you are feeling any sign of an injury, start active prevention:
• Lay off the intensity and distance but try to keep the hours up, even if it is walking and cross-training.
• Cross-train—anything that is not causing more harm. Examples include if you have an injured foot but spend time on your upper body.
• Ice! Ice can work wonders, whether for a full-blown injury or simply a niggle. When you have hurt a muscle, you need to bring blood to that muscle to aid and accelerate healing. When your body gets cold, it will send warm blood to the injured muscle.
• Change gear or terrain. You might need to spend more time on the soft forest floor or finally get a new pair of shoes.
What to do when you are injured
You did everything you could to prevent it, but it still happened—you’re injured. This is one of the most stressful things to deal with as a runner.
• When it’s bad—really bad—STOP.
• Keep a routine of some sort, even if it is just showing support at the local club.
• Don’t be discouraged; strength can last for years. You will only lose your aerobic fitness, which you will gain again quickly.
• Mentally, this can be an extremely difficult part of running, especially if you have just gotten into it or are close to a goal. Be prepared for this.
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