3 years ago when I was training for and completed my first half, I ended the season with a hideous IT Band injury. My pace sucked during the actual event…nearly a 20 minute mile. I should have quit, and had a DNF and not pushed through the pain. But I didn’t. I just kept going, pushed through the pain, through the tears and the inability to breath properly I was determined to cross that finish line.
No…I was stupid. And foolish.
Why did I have an IT Band injury? Because I failed to train properly, and recover properly. I skipped a lot of my weekly training walks/runs that I was to do on my own; and only went to the group trainings. (dumb, dumb, dumb) I didn’t stretch after a training when the miles got up there. And I didn’t take a break when I first felt like I had hurt something. And, I honestly believe that my shoes had a lot to do with it. They didn’t fit properly, and while there were a name brand…they were not the best.
So, how does one avoid injury while training for an endurance event? While first, don’t over-do it. Don’t increase your milage too much week to week. The standard rule for most training programs is 10%. Also, don’t push through the pain! If you feel like you may have injured yourself, take a rest day or two. Do not hit the pavement until you feel 100%. If after a day or two, you still feel as though there is an injury talk to your doctor or PT. Continuing to train with a minor injury could lead to a more serious injury or permanent issues.
Second, make sure to warm up and cool down with dynamic stretches before a run; and long, slow stretches after a run. Some good dynamic stretches include:
- Jump squats
- Power skipping (long strides, fast pace)
- Jumping jacks
- High Knees
- Arm circles
Stretching after a run is just as important as the warm up. Long, slow static stretches will help to ensure that you do not over stress a muscle, tendon or ligament. Common static stretches include:
- Side bends
- Runner’s pose (yoga)
- Shoulder stretch
- Standing Quadriceps Stretch
- Seated Forward Bend
- Hip flexor stretch
There has been a lot of controversy over whether static stretches work…and my take on it is that they do infact work when used properly and at the correct time. Static stretches elongate the muscle and then in turn help the muscle to enlarge upon recovery.
Take for example a rubber band. If you stretched it as far as it could go it would snap. But, if you stretched it a little bit a few times and warmed up the rubber, similar to how dynamic stretches warm up your muscles, you would then be able to stretch the rubber band farther, without snapping it. Doing static stretches prior to running, or other physical activity might do more harm than good. So save those static stretches for your post run cool-down.
Another way to avoid injury is to use a foam roller or The Stick to do a little myofascial release. There are too many different positions to describe here, so if you need some instruction head over to YouTube…there are tons of instructional videos there. Also, a lacrosse ball works well too! I keep one in my gym bag for those hard to reach spots.
Lastly, know your limits. Don’t push too hard, don’t go overboard on the stretching or foam rolling (it can hurt so good, but it can also huuuurt). Listen to your body and let it lead you (pun intended). Learning to read your body’s overtraining, or under training queues can be your number one defender against injury when training for an endurance event. It took a full 6 months before my IT Band issue was finally resolved. It went from lower back pain, to knee pain, to finally some plantar fasciitis…but 2 braces, a gallon of advil and 10 miles of KT Tape later it finally went away. Why did it take so long? Because I didn’t listen to my body. But I am listening now!