When people are pretty fit or take up running again after many years their biggest enemy can be the "over eager "syndrome!
They feel fit and as if nothing can stop them, which is great for motivation, but is the body really ready for the pounding of the run.
Every footstep you take will have to carry your total weight slamming down on hard tarmac. Every muscle, tendon or joint in their body needs to prepare for this and get used to it.
There are many good programs to follow on runners sites and these should be followed with caution.
If you feel that you have not done enough, cross train or stretch and leave the running until next planned session.
People who take the time to make up these plans know only too well the heartbreak an injury brings to a runner.
Injuries do not have to be big to ground you. They all have one thing in common, they are horribly painful and make every step stressful. Motivation collapses and the threat of giving up is all too often the result.
I have heard many people say " i can't run because i have a really bad back" Or " My ankles are too weak" or "My knees are worn out".
In some cases these excuses are true but in many others these are people who have tried running, just couldn't find it comfortable enough or they overdid it within the first month. The pain they felt was justification enough never to do it again.
Well i can honestly say that i have run with many runners who have old skiing injuries to their knees, who have had weak backs and who have ankles that are like loose rags but still manage a marathon or at least a 10km run in spite of their old injuries.
The secret to running after an injury or running injury free is nothing magical it is called " Time and perseverance". You just have to learn to listen to your body and respect what it is telling you.
It is neither tough nor smart to run through pain thinking that it will get better especially if it is in the joints or tendons. BUT it does not have to stop you becoming a good runner.
Running has many positive advantages for people. If you run within your capabilities and try to push your limit slightly you get progress if you push your limits you can be knocked back by a force you never expected. Ignore your body when it pleas with you and it will repay you with the same respect.
Your mind and your body have to work in harmony.
We here marathon runners talk about the pain of the last 10km and meeting the wall, but this is something totally different to running to keep fit and healthy. Many of these guys are competitive and running as a career. They are competing for large sums of money and their pain is often muscular. These guys are so well trained that they know their muscles will repair and heal a lot quicker than a hobby runners muscles.
To run free of injury you benefit by starting with a goal in mind and that goal is: " What is my dream? and what do i want out of this?"
You test your ability and then you have a specific plan made up to follow which will build your muscles up gradually until they are strong enough to protect your joints. Your tendons are something else, they need to be stretched gently and if they are over stretched they become very very painful. A broken tendon does not grow back like torn muscle it needs operated by a surgeon to mend it.
So all i can say is that a sensible plan and getting better gradually is the safest and most sensible thing to do if you want benefits from your running and to be able to do this for many years.
You can see many elderly people running in marathons, they are not out to win but many of them finish in a much better time than a lot of eager youngsters for the mere fact that they do this at an even and strong pace suited to them.
I have written up some of the most common injuries and problems runners face when running races or even during training.
Look out for signs of these and do something about it before it goes too far.
Prevention is definitely much better than cure.
Lets start with a mild problem:
STITCH IN YOUR SIDE.
This comes on suddenly and a sharp pain digs into the side of your abdomen. I don't know anyone runner or not that has never experienced this type of pain, it knocks the wind out of you.
This is most commonly caused by a cramp in the diaphragm.
Sometimes it can be gas in your intestines or if you have eaten a lot of food or drunk too much water just before your run.
To help avoid this pain:
The obvious, don't eat too soon before running. Try to give it at least 2 hours before running to let your food be digested.
When drinking during a run take small sips often and not a bottle at a time.
If during a race:
Slow down and exhale forcefully when the foot on the opposite side to the pain strikes the ground.
Dig your fingers under your ribcage and into the cramping muscle, thus stretching the diaphragm.
Some people believe in picking up a stone and carrying it for a while, but how this works is beyond my knowledge, but if it works do it!
The plantar fascia is the tissue that runs from the base of the toe to the heel. Inflammation or irritation of this tissue causes this problem.
When you get out of bed in the morning the first few steps are painful. The foot feels tight and the pain can go up through the heel.
The causes of plantar fasciitis can be many but all point to one thing the tendons under the foot are being stretched to their limit too fast and they are yelling at you! Maybe you have flat feet or you over pronate and this is adding to the problem or even the cause of it. Your arches might be very high and causing you to run in a way that puts more pressure on the tendon…..who knows before you get this checked up? Never ignore foot pain it can be cured before it knocks you off your feet.
Another cause of this agonizing foot problem is sudden changes in training like sudden increases in speed, distance, incline, etc. Or poor or worn out footwear.
Avoiding this problem:
Sensible training plan that doesn't push you too far and lets your body stretch gradually to maintain your speed and ability.
Stretch exercises before and after a run.
Have your feet analyzed while running by a good shoe supplier for over pronation, flat feet, high arches etc and find shoes that suit you and your running style. ( Some people will say nowadays that this is wrong and everybody should run barefoot!!! ) This might be good for some people but unfortunately for me evolution and high heels have caused me problems that make me grateful for my custom soles. I say that it is your choice and responsibility alone to find what suits you.
If this type of injury is suspected:
Apply ice to the inflamed area for ten minutes. ( Even stick your feet in an ice bath and water for as long as you can stick it ) However, never put ice directly onto your bare skin and hold this can damage underlying tissue. Put a thin tea towel between the injury and the ice bag.
Another good tip is to always have a bag of frozen peas in your freezer. Put these in a towel and wrap this around the foot. You can roll your foot over the bag and the small peas act like a massager.
Unfortunately, when this injury comes about you have to rest up, hard impact will only irritate the injury further.
Going to a good sports physiotherapist will help, they can give you stretch exercises in addition to treatment that will get you back out running in the shortest possible time. This treatment also helps the avoidance of further problems.
THE KNEE PROBLEM
There are many knee problems that can arise. It can be the side of the knee, under the knee, behind the knee, over the knee or the kneecap itself. This is because the knee is a joint with tendons and ligaments keeping it all together.
If you google knee problems when running you will have enough to read for days!
Any knee problems should be explored and treated by a doctor.
To avoid knee injuries it is good to remember that your knee is taking the impact of your full weight when running. The surface you run on will also affect the impact.
Good shoes are essential if you have knee problems to help absorb the shock of landing. Some people land mid foot, some forefoot and some on their heels. There are shoes for every type of runner so invest well and you will protect yourself as best you can from getting running related injuries.
Tight or weak quadriceps could also be the cause. So stretch and strengthen the quadricep muscle. This serves as prevention.
Like any other injury ice is your best friend.
RICE is short for: REST-ICE-COMPRESSION-ELEVATION
Shin Splints are a painful condition that develops along the inside of the shin. It can occur along the lower half of the tibia, anywhere from a few inches above the ankle to about halfway up the shin.
The main cause of shin splints, can be simply put into four words: Too much too soon.
What helps? RICE!
Shin splints can be caused by tight calf or tibialis muscles. This can be helped by stretching exercises to the muscle.
Stand with the balls of your feet on a step or platform. Gently lower your heels towards the floor, thus stretching your calves. ( This also helps for plantar fasciitis ) Hold for 20 seconds and release. Repeat at least 5 times.
The tibialis anterior stretch:
This stretch for this muscle requires a partner to help you :
Sit with your legs extended towards your partner and let him/ her gently press down on the top of your foot pushing the toes towards the ground.Hold for 20 seconds and release.
Apply force gently and slowly. Don't force the stretch beyond the person's ability.
Repeat these exercises at least 5 times.
These exercises should be done at least three times each day.
Good luck on your running for many many years injury free!