An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. –Benjamin Franklin
As a physical therapist, I help people who have suffered from an injury through the process of rehabilitation. Yes, accidents will happen, but being proactive can help you to avoid and limit the chance of an injury.
Nothing derails a perfectly designed training program like an injury. One key to being a Resilient Runner is to optimize your health and lessen your risk of injury by being proactive upfront.
10 Strategies to Avoid Injury
1. Warm up prior to exercise.
I recommend a normal warm up time of at least 10 minutes in order to increase blood flow to the area. This allows for better mobility. (If you’re already injured, movement is necessary to bring in the nutrients and remove any cellular waste products when healing.) If running indoors try using a stationary bike or the rower machine initially to get your muscles warmed up and the knee joint more lubricated, this also works into your cross training routine.
2. Cool down.
After performing your exercises, take extra time to cool down and stretch. I like to incorporate movements and activities that promote movement and circulation to the knees as well as provide range of motion (ROM) to the entire body. The perfect time to perform static stretching is after exercising. Work on those tight and restricted areas. Keep moving throughout the day and avoid sitting for extended periods of time.
3. Eat healthy fats.
A healthy diet is critical to avoid injury. Your body tissue needs nutrients to be able to perform at a high level. Avoid processed food as much as possible. Limit sugary food and add more protein and healthy fat in your diet. Maintaining a diet with adequate healthy fats is essential in providing the nutrients to support all hormone function in the body as well as support the brain and nervous system. Adequate protein intake is necessary to support muscle health and development.
4. Keep tissues hydrated.
The human body is primarily made of water, which is critical for all body functions. Adequate water intake is critical to avoid dehydration which can negatively affect your training. Dehydrated tissues are prone to injury as they struggle to gain needed nutrients to heal and repair. Dehydrated tissues are less flexible and tend to accumulate waste products. Stay hydrated by drinking water. Try to avoid beverages that contain artificial sweeteners or chemicals with names you can’t spell or pronounce.
I take certain supplements during times of heavy training volume or when I am in a phase of overreaching. I also take them intermittently to help prevent injury or heal from one.
My most recommended supplement is CapraFlex by Mt. Capra. Essentially, it combines an organic glucosamine and chondroitin supplement with other natural herbs which are designed to reduce inflammation. CapraFlex can be taken long term or intermittently to help heal from an injury.
Like CapraFlex, Tissue Rejuvenator by Hammer Nutrition contains glucosamine and chondroitin as well as a host of herbs, spices, and enzymes to help support tissues and limit inflammation. I recommend taking either CapraFlex OR Tissue Rejuvenator. You can take CapraColostrum independently or in conjunction with either CapraFlex or Tissue Rejuvenator.
I recommend taking these supplements for injury prevention or as a recovery strategy. I recommend trying a 14-30 day protocol. (Please consult with your pharmacist and/or physician prior to starting any new supplementation protocol.)
6. Take cross training seriously.
Performing the same activity day after day without variation can lead to overuse injuries or muscle imbalances. You may spend a majority of your time specifically training for a particular sport or activity like running, but it’s important to vary the training load and/or stimulus. Not only can cross training limit your risk of injury, it makes training fun by keeping the body stimulated and ready to improve.
7. Actively manage your aches and pains.
Spot train your weak areas and work on whole body mobility and fitness. Don’t neglect the small stuff as it will catch up with you sooner or later. Consider seeing a masseuse for regular body work. Learn how to use a foam roller and other self-massage tools to help maintain tissue extensibility.
8. Know when to hold them and when to fold them.
Knowing when to push through pain and discomfort and when to modify the activity or discontinue it completely is critical in avoiding injury. Modify any exercise as you need to, and don’t compromise technique to complete an exercise. Poor technique will only increase your risk of injury elsewhere. Work with your coach or athletic trainer to determine if poor form and technique is causing the pain. With instruction, you may avoid pain and injury while taking your training to the next level.
9. Adequate rest is important.
Your body must rest in order to grow and develop. Training every day is not the best way to improve. It can lead to injury and burn out. Take a rest day and have fun. Participate in a yoga class, take a leisurely bike ride or take a walk in the park. If you are participating in a yearly training cycle, be sure to incorporate an off season which involves a change of pace from your regular training and some active rest. Proper programming includes mini cycles with an off season as well as active rest cycles in between heavy load and heavy volume training cycles.
10. Seek help early.
If you’re experiencing chronic aches or pain or you’re struggling with repeated injury, then it’s time to be proactive. Like running, a healthy lifestyle is a lifelong pursuit. If you’re injured or not enjoying an activity, you will not stay engaged or motivated in the long term (and likely not reach your goals). One important key to being a lifelong runner is to improve your resilience to injury.
That is why Trevor, Angie and I have created the Resilient Runner program. This program gives you all the tools needed to become a lifelong resilient runner. We explain injury prevention strategies to keep running, plus we provide detailed videos and rehabilitation guides on each problem area of the body including:
- Lower Back Pain and Piriformis
- Upper Leg: Iliotibial Band and Hamstring Injury
- Knee Pain: Patellar Femoral Pain Syndrome (Runner’s Knee); Patellar Tendinitis; and Meniscus Injury
- Lower Leg and Foot: Achilles Tendinitis; Plantar Fasciitis; Shin Splints; and Stress Fractures
It’s a virtual library of self-treatment protocols including downloadable podcasts, videos, and .pdf files of rehabilitation guides. It also includes a 277 page eBook, The Resilient Runner, Prevention and Self-Treatment Guide to Common Running Related Injuries.
In addition, Angie offers in-depth advice on the following topics:
- Preventing the most common running mistakes and mishaps from side stitches to blisters.
- How to cope with the mental and physical aspects of injury.
- Tips on avoiding overtraining.
- Tips on cross training including a special 27 minutes Yoga for Runners Video.
More written content and videos are in the works, but if you sign up now you will get access to everything at one special introductory price!
Hi Ben, Thanks for all your great info on the MTA podcast and blog.
After listening to one of your recent podcasts, I realized I need to work on my gluteus medius to strengthen my hips. I’m sure both could be stronger, but it’s my right side that I can tell needs the most work.
My question is: when I know there’s an imbalance, should I do more repetitions of strengthening exercises on the weak side than you do on the stronger side? For example, 10 reps on the right side, 5 on the left? Or should I treat both the same?
Thanks for your help!
HI Rebekah….this is a great question and one I get all of the time. To be honest there really isn’t a straight forward answer, but I will give you my opinion. In cases where both sides need work but one is obviously weaker than the other than yes, I do focus a little extra on the weaker side. When it comes to reps I tend to favor a lower rep and higher resistance approach. (after I am warmed up). So for example I may do 5 sets of 5 reps on my worse side and only 3-4 sets of 5 on my better side. An example for glut med strength could be clam shells. You could do 5 reps of 3 sec going up, 3 sec hold at the top, 3 sec going down for up to 5 sets. When that is easy pick a heavier band. Hope that helps….and keep up the glut work 🙂