If it’s not my knee, it’s my back. If it’s not my back, it’s my groin. If it’s not my groin, it’s my _________. You can pretty much fill in the blank with any body part and I’ve probably injured it this year. I don’t remember the last time I ran without pain. The last few weeks, I have been running with knee braces and downing Glucosamine because I’ve been having pain in my knee joints and just yesterday, I believe I twisted my hip flexor from increasing the incline too much on the treadmill and trying to run even when I knew something was wrong.
Is it possible to just exercise freely without fear of hurting myself? Evidently for me, it’s not in my cards. Why? Because I’m just stubborn. I can’t seem to allow myself a single rest day in fear that everything I’ve worked for will be reversed. I don’t even remember the last time I gave my body a chance to recover. My irrational thoughts lead me to believe that if I do not exercise, I won’t allow myself to eat the things I enjoy.
I know all of this sounds nuts – even writing this makes me realize how senseless I’ve been. The worst part of this is, I know what I’m doing is wrong and I know how to fix it, so why can’t I convince myself that my body needs fuel and rest to recover? Hmm… it’s an uphill battle indeed but other than overtraining/overuse, what are the other causes for chronic injuries? Let’s explore a few…
1) Warming Up and Cooling Down
I never realized how important warming up was until I started doing it and realized how much it helps with injury prevention. However, what I have failed to do is the latter part which was cooling down.
Static vs. Dynamic Stretching
Many runners simply static stretch before and after their run but studies have shown that static stretching should only be done after your run. What’s more effective for injury prevention are dynamic stretches – simple movements such as lunges, running on the spot, swinging your legs so you can prepare your body for running and improve your range of motion to increase inflexibility. Once you have cooled down, then you can do some basic static stretching to make sure your muscles are loosened up.
2) Proper Diet and Refueling
Often, runners do not have an appetite after their workout but it is imperative that they refuel their body with the right nutrients and amino acids to feed the muscles for recovery. Try to fuel up as quickly as you can post-workout and even if you don’t feel like eating, try making a smoothie or protein shake. Your daily diet is also important to make sure you are getting the right balance of nutrition to keep your energy levels up and physically strong to sustain your workout regimen.
More often than not, many runners fall to their comfort of simply getting in a good run and calling it a day. However, studies have shown that by only doing cardio, we aren’t building up the core and our body will start eating into our muscles for fuel. By having more muscle mass, we actually increase our metabolism and can burn calories throughout the day. Therefore, incorporate other ways of training by lifting weights, doing body weight exercises, or taking up other sports to stay active.
4) Getting a Good Night’s Rest
Sleep is not for the weak - as you may have heard. For our body to fully recover, we need to prioritize our bedtime as this is the moment when our muscles rebuild and adapt to our running workload. By being more alert, you are also less likely to injure yourself by doing something careless because of your lack of focus. So try and get in those 8 hours everyone recommends!
5) Rest and Chill Out!
I need to chill out. I’m feeling burnt out more than anything. Rest days are crucial and it can range from 1-3 days a week depending on your fitness goals. However, just make sure that on those days you do take a rest that not only do you physically relax but mentally, try to free yourself of any negative thoughts and go out and do something you enjoy. For you to achieve your fitness goals, as strange as it sounds, your rest days are crucial because your body needs to recover and rebuild. You will realize the benefits the day you return back to the gym as you will notice that you should have much more energy and you are less likely to feel burnt out.
To all my injury-prone runners out there, let's say farewell to injuries once and for all!