Now here’s where you have to face the truth. Your Facebook feed may show sunset pics from your latest weekend hike, that time you went kayak adventure racing and yes, even that half marathon medal you now proudly own. What it doesn’t always show, however, is you limping around the next day with ice on your shins, the funky colored tape slapped along your IT Band for support and your crossed fingers hoping your knee doesn’t explode.
So when exactly did running start pummeling you into the ground? And further, how do you make sure you don’t ignore these signals and give yourself a running injury?
Running started to hurt probably the same time you started spending more time crammed in chairs for long hours of the day. Your hips have become steel-trap stiff, your ankles refuse to bend or flex and your shoulders permanently round forward in some kind of faux-cool teenager slump.
Running in the yard, or at recess or anywhere else, was once a spontaneous outlet we didn’t just want to do. We had to do it. To this day, we run or we do other such fitness activities to continue feeding ourselves physically, socially and mentally. We’re hooked and we want to keep heading out the door, because running is the original pure movement we all compulsively did as kids.
Fortunately, we now know more about strength training, mobility and running technique and how they all combine to get you effortlessly accumulating more finisher medals.
Running pain tells you everything you need to know. It’s telling you something about the current state of your body’s strength, mobility and coordination – or more likely lack thereof. Ignore it and best of luck to you. You only have two knees.
But start by treating and taking care of yourself like the high-functioning, butt-kicking social athlete you want to be and you’ll be able to rack up a few more finish lines, adventure pics and Spartan fire pits in no time!
Determine Your Level of “Pre-Injury”
The best way to prevent a running injury is to know whether or not you’re in a “pre-injured” state. What by all means is a pre-injured state?
It’s the state of mounting tension, pain, inflammation and irritation your body parts go through before that Achilles or blasted knee injury just seems to “come out of nowhere.” Some of us become a little habituated to things hurting the first few minutes of your run and are hoping that heel pain will…you know…resolve itself.
So here are two quick assessments you can do to yourself right now to establish your level of “pre-inuredness” and susceptibility to running injuries.
The Pinch Test: Run your finger right along your lower calf and Achilles tendon right now. Give your tendon a few solid pinches. You should be able to pinch, HARD, and feel the pressure but NO pain or irritation. IF you do, congratulations you’re in the world of pre-injury! Don’t feel bad – you have lots of company, as nearly 80% of runners this year will be felled by some kind of injury themselves. If you’re not, congratulations your calves and Achilles are in good shape. Now try your quads and your knees? Your lower back? Your shoulders?
Squat Assessment: There is not enough room in this article to discuss all the cool crazy stuff that squatting provides for you and tells you about your current level of mobility, fitness and coordination. Suffice to say, we should all have enough range of motion in our ankles, knees, hips and back to squat down low and hold that position pain free at least for a few minutes. Your feet should be straight and solidly planted flat on the ground, not sitting up on our toes. Your back should be straight, not rounded! And it should feel…good!
Want to learn more? Click here to watch a demonstration of the pinch test and squat assessment.
Keep Moving and Work on Mobility
Every night you need to pay homage to the mobility gods to undo all those hours crammed inactively on airplanes, cars and in the office. First, spend five minutes dynamically warming up before your workout with some combination of squats, leg swings, lunges, arm circles and pushups. Next, spend 10 minutes foam rolling two body parts that hurt.
Running can tell you exactly what you need to maintain a happy, healthy, fit lifestyle for years to come. If you listen to what it says not only can you return to the spontaneous pain-free running of yesteryear, but you can build a strong, healthy, resilient body that can carry you anywhere you want to go.
I know you need help to be the runner you want to become. In fact, we all need help in the form of motivation, support, injury prevention advice, and expert training guidance.
It’s why we created The 30 Day Challenge. But a friendly warning: this program’s only for the motivated crew who want to make life long changes in their running, strength, mobility. Others need not apply 😉 Click here to not only learn my personal story with injury & breakdown, but learn how this running program is UNLIKE any other program out there.