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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

How To Stay Injury Free While Increasing Mileage

Wow, that's a bit of a loaded title isn't it.  This topic is like the holy grail of running, and dare I say, I finally have a recipe that works. For me at least. But I figure it must be able to help you too. Right? Right!

A healthy competitor is a winning competitor

Some background first

my monthly mileage chart
I came back into competitive running last August and since then I've managed to slowly fall back into that discomforting groove that so many of us call tempo runs, hill repeats and long steady runs. Slowly my body adapted to the new schedule, the new pains, the new highs and lows of it all.  It wasn't before long though that my astronomical jumps in monthly mileage started to take its toll on my body.  Compound that with the fact that I had been sitting at my office desk for nearly 7 years prior to jumping back into running, and injuries were bound to happen.  And happen they did. Here's a quick list of injuries I've had to deal with in the last year:
  • Sprained Ankles
  • Runner's Knee
  • ITBS
  • Adductor Strain
And each and every time I was able to come out of the injury stronger and ready to conquer my next block of training.  That's always the scary bit with injuries. We never know how long we'll be out of our regular training and how we'll bounce back.  Well, it turns out I can help you get rid of most of the doubt with a bit of advice I've learned through the miles and miles of running.

Strengthen Your Core

This was at the root of, literally, every one of the injuries I've sustained in the last year.  As mileage volume increases or mileage intensity increases, or even worse, both increase, you'll start to notice certain muscle groups hurt more than others. Certain joints hurt more than others. Pay attention to these 'growing' pains, they are telling you a story that will surely unravel soon enough. If you can listen to your body, you'll notice that it's time to strengthen core muscle groups, groups that are often used to stabilize your body. If you're not injured and smart, you'll start a core routine now. Otherwise, it's still never too took countless injuries for me before I learned.

Are you looking for some exercises to help strengthen your core? Follow my routine 3 times a week and you'll reap the benefits in no time!


Do you have a coach? Do you have running buddies? Do you have a physio/massage/chiro therapist?

Then TALK to them. Don't hide behind a wall, tell them where you hurt, how training is going, etc. They can offer insight you will never discover on your own. Otherwise it will be you against science and mother nature, allies/enemies that you simply can't beat alone.

It wasn't till I connected my experiences to a physio therapist and a massage therapist that I truly started to find the benefit in using them.  Are you looking for running specific therapists in London (Ontario)?

Get in touch with Dave Cousins at Priority Massage & Health (Wortley Village) for your massage needs. Tell him Andre LeFort sent you, he'll treat you well.

Get in touch with Kate Reid at CBI Health (East End) for your Physiotherapy needs. Tell her Andre LeFort sent you, she'll treat you well.

Use The Right Tools

I'm not a gimmicky kind of guy, and I try and stay as simple as possible in my health, but sometimes there are tools you find that make taking care of yourself enjoyable and rewarding.I've got a few, and I think if you suffer from pain like I do while training, you'll want to give these a good long look:
  • Acuball Mini (which I discuss here and here): Fix your posture and massage your feet!
  • The Stick (which I discuss here): Massage your sore leg muscles until they sing!
  • Compression Socks (which I discuss here): Take care of your calves, they deserve it!

Be Cool

if only we were as cool and lucky as this horse on clouds
Since I live in Canada and it's still well below freezing, this comes naturally. Wink. In all seriousness, this last bit of advice is rather 'soft' but can be the difference between taking 5 days off, or recovering from a serious injury for 4 weeks. Be cool about your goals, be cool about your injuries...and above all, just be cool.  Take things one step at a time and try and look at the big picture instead of trying to hit weekly/daily goals.

And that my friends, is how I manage to stay relatively injury free. I say relatively because we all suffer from something at one point or another...the difference between an injured runner and a healthy runner is in how well we listen to our bodies, peers, coaches and therapists.  If you can slow yourself down for a minute or two, get yourself in check, remember the big picture and forget about how 'competitor X,Y or Z isn't injured' you'll be just fine. Just fine...

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